Prior to 1965, the Helsinki City Theatre operated on third-party stages, after which the organisation chose to construct a theatre building of its own. The architectural competition for the new building in the shoreline park along the Eläintarhanlahti Bay was won by Timo Penttilä and Kari Virta with their joined entry. The building, including a large auditorium seating 920 people and a small auditorium seating 300 people, opened in 1967.
Timo Penttilä was the principal architect of the implementation. His main idea was to break with conventional stage planning and discreetly accommodate a volume of 100,000 m3 into the green park surroundings. The building penetrates into the slope to such extent that its stages, storage areas and workshops are mainly below ground. However, the public spaces such as the grand foyer open widely to the park and the traffic flows of the public follow the natural contours of the ground. The facades are of glazed ceramic tile.
A major renovation and upgrade project of the theatre building begun in June 2015. The work by LPR Architects and Helsinki City Museum was completed in summer 2017, for the 50 years’ jubilee of the modern masterpiece.
“The work of LPR architects is characterised by technical skill and a discreet approach to renewal that is respectful of the original edifice and makes use of contemporary techniques. All these aspects are beautifully rendered in the renovated Helsinki City Theatre in which the essence of Timo Penttilä’s architecture has been successfully preserved and partly restored to its original form.”
“With many 1960s buildings and interiors facing demolition, it is important that this public monument has been respectfully preserved. A visit to the renewed theatre is bound to increase public appreciation of 1960s architecture.
Helsinki City Theatre is listed on the DOCOMOMO Finland registered selection of important architectural and environmental modernist sites.
The Finlandia Prize for Architecture in 2017 shortlist
The Finnish Architecture Biennial Review 2018 catalogue