pikku finlandia interior
Photo: Mikael Linden

Little Finlandia 

Longevity is the real sustainability

Little Finlandia is a temporary event space and cafe in Helsinki overlooking the lush Töölönlahti Bay. It serves as a temporary substitute for the city’s congress centre, Alvar Aalto’s renowned Finlandia Hall, which is currently closed for refurbishment.

Pikku Finlandia entrance
Photo: Kimmo Raisanen

The most striking feature of the building is the 95 pine trees that support it. These trees were felled without damaging their branches and pressure-washed to remove the bark with minimal further processing. The design proves that, alongside the trunk, the thinner crown  section of a pine tree can also be used for construction, not just as pulpwood. 

What is less obvious about Little Finlandia is that the entire building is reusable, transportable and fully recyclable. Once the renovation work on Finlandia Hall is complete, Little Finlandia will be transported elsewhere and re-assembled with a new purpose. With an expected lifespan of 50 years, the building lends itself to many uses including as a school or a day-care centre.

Pikku finlandia interior
Photo: Mika Pollari

The modular structure can be disassembled, the joints are demountable, the windows can be converted into doors and the layout can be reconfigured for another use. The interior spaces have been designed to be simple in form so that they can be divided easily.

If Little Finlandia has a message, it is that longevity is the real sustainability. The longer a building is in active use, the less often it needs to be replaced, and the less energy and raw materials are required. Buildings are often demolished, not because they have come to the end of their technical service life, but because they cannot meet their occupants’ changing needs. What this means is that there can be no genuine sustainability without adaptability. 

Pikku finlandia interior
Photo: Finlandia Hall

Architects Jaakko Torvinen, Havu Järvelä and Elli Wendelin were still students at Aalto University when they designed Pikku-Finlandia together with Architects NRT and Professor Pekka Heikkinen in collaboration with the City of Helsinki and Finlandia Hall.