In 1904, Eliel Saarinen won the architectural competition to design Helsinki’s central railway station. Saarinen’s national-romantic entry caused a huge emotional uproar among Finnish architects. Some of Saarinen colleagues considered his proposal backward-looking and insisted that as the railway station symbolised a new, modern era, the architecture should do the same.

The critique and a study trip to continental Europe convinced Saarinen to modify his design considerably. He replaced his national-romantic bear statues with Emil Wickström’s stone statues and his various picturesque towers with more rationalist motifs and design language. Construction of the building was delayed, mainly by the First World War, and this had an influence on the final appearance of the building.

The Central Railway Station and its administrative buildings are among Eliel Saarinen’s most important achievements in Finland. The station was finally completed in 1919. A few years later, after winning the second prize in the competition to design the Chicago Tribune skyscraper, Eliel Saarinen moved permanently to the United States. In 2013, the BBC listed Saarinen’s railway station among the ten most beautiful railway stations in the world.

In 1994 Esa Piiroinen won the architectural competition held for covering the platform area. The steel-structured glass roofing was completed in 2001.

Location

Kaivokatu 1, Helsinki
60.1708216, 24.9414764

Images

Rautatientori Square side façade, drawing by Eliel Saarinen., Central Railway Station
Rautatientori Square side façade, drawing by Eliel Saarinen., Central Railway Station (© MFA)
Central Railway Station
Central Railway Station (© Heikki Havas / MFA )
Central Railway Station
Central Railway Station (© Heikki Havas / Helsinki City Museum)
Central Railway Station
Central Railway Station (© Ville Rinne / VR Group)
Main station hall., Central Railway Station
Main station hall., Central Railway Station (© Karina-Sirkku Kurz / MFA)
Iconic sculptures
Iconic sculptures "the stone men" at main entrance., Central Railway Station (© Soile Laaksonen / VR Group)
Platform roofing by Esa Piiroinen, 2001., Central Railway Station
Platform roofing by Esa Piiroinen, 2001., Central Railway Station (© Kari Hakli)
Platform roofing by Esa Piiroinen, 2001., Central Railway Station
Platform roofing by Esa Piiroinen, 2001., Central Railway Station (© Kari Hakli)

Additional media

Onni Tarjanne, competition entry
Onni Tarjanne, competition entry "P", 2nd prize., Central Railway Station (© MFA)
Hjalmar Åberg, competition entry
Hjalmar Åberg, competition entry "Helsingfors", shared 3rd prize., Central Railway Station (© MFA)
Usko Nyström, Alarik Tavaststjerna, competition entry
Usko Nyström, Alarik Tavaststjerna, competition entry "Stephenson", shared 3rd prize., Central Railway Station (© MFA)