For the first thirty years of its existence, the theatre functioned primarily as a touring company. In 1898–99 an open competition for the façade fronting Rautatientori Square was held and Jarl Eklund’s entry won the first prize. The implementation, however, was entrusted to Onni Tarjanne (Törnqvist), who had drawn up the theatre layout for the façade competition. The theatre had not acquired a permanent home until then, 1902, when this purpose-built theatre was erected in the heart of Helsinki, adjacent to the city’s main railway station.
The granite-clad building by Tarjanne, with its soapstone ornaments, is one of the monuments of Finnish Jugendstil, National Romanticism. The statue of writer Aleksis Kivi (1834–1872), designed by Wäinö Aaltonen in 1939, is located in front of the theatre building. Since the national romantic period Kivi has been regarded as Finland’s national writer with his realistic-romantic novels describing the harsh life in the rural country.
In the 1930s an extension to the theatre building was built on the Kaisaniemi park side. The extension, also by Tarjanne, contains workshops and wardrobes. Another extension, the so-called Small Stage representing radical Modernism, was built in 1954 according to the design by Kaija and Heikki Siren Architects. In addition to the two stages, the theatre comprises the Willensauna Stage built in 1976, and the Omapohja Studio Stage built in 1987, also by Kaija and Heikki Siren Architects.
The renovation and restauration of the theatre was completed during the centenary of the building in 2002 by architect Sari Schulman.