Kuhmo Town Library
The 1980s was a time of strong economic growth and accelerating consumerism. This was evident also in the building sector: a number of new shopping centres sprung up in the cities, and many companies built themselves gleaming headquarters. Banks eagerly participated in the new construction and redevelopment of old properties.
The decision of the Pori Regional Cooperative Bank to hold an architectural competition for their headquarters together with a shopping centre is indicative of the time. The 1984 invitational competition was won by Nurmela-Raimoranta-Tasa Architects (now Architects NRT), and it was from their proposal’s pseudonym “Be-POP” that the shopping centre received its name. Construction work began in 1986 and was completed in 1989.
BePOP is located within the street grid of Pori’s city centre, standing in harmony with the surrounding buildings built at different times during the 20th century. Half a city block is concealed behind its façades clad in bluish terrazzo prefabricated elements. The composition is given a vibrancy by the dynamic fenestration, rich details and changing rhythms. A monumental canopy forms the main façade motif, under which one enters into the shopping gallery which forms a natural end point to the city centre’s pedestrian precinct.
The interior design of the curved gallery extending through the entire building is exuberant. There is an abundance of bright glossy-coloured surfaces, and the finishing materials include terrazzo, glass bricks, brass and stainless steel. Several different architectural references and even ironic humour can be found among the opulent details.
A key element of the interior is the circular tower that pierces the gallery’s glass roof, and which separates the bank’s head offices from the shopping centre. The bank’s facilities are rotated in a fan shape around the tower on four floors, and their sophisticated design, unique furniture and high-quality materials create a feeling of opulence and trustworthy solvency typical for the architecture of financial institutions.
The strength of the building arises from contrasts: carefree playfulness, joyful colours and a variety of forms encounter quality materials, disciplined design and meticulous finishes. BePOP is a total work of art that insightfully catches the essence of the consumer feast and abundance of the 1980s. It is considered as one of the most significant representatives of commercial architecture of the era in Finland. It is listed on the DOCOMOMO Finland registered selection of important architectural and environmental modernist sites.
Text: Joona Rantasalo / DOCOMOMO Finland