The Kaleva building, completed in 1914, is one of a series of monumental buildings in Helsinki by Armas Lindgren. The palazzo-like stone façade of the building is divided horizontally into three sections. The courtyard façades are zoned, either in pale render or red brick. Lindgren succeeded in giving this modern office building the dignified appearance of a Florentine renaissance palace through the placing of the fenestration and the crenellation of the upper part of the façade. For a long time, the design also featured a corner tower to counterbalance the tower of the railway station. In the end, however, the tower shrank to the rounded corner where the main entrance is located.A very elegantly decorated stairwell opens from the main door. In 1912 the Seurahuone hotel and restaurant became the tenant of the insurance company, causing changes in the design. The international hotel architecture of the time was taken as the model for the design. The curved corridor developed by Lindgren transformed the awkward footprint of the hotel section into a practically functional whole. The interior of the hotel is richly decorated. The building is also important in terms of building technology. The ferroconcrete pile-work designed by Jalmar Castren was the first in Finland. The Kaleva building was a carefully realised commission in which Lindgren was asked to design a challenging sequence of spaces.

Text: Juhana Lahti / 20th Century Architecture, MFA

Location

Mannerheimintie 7, Helsinki
60.1700365, 24.9395738

Images

Building photographed from Mannerheimintie, Kaleva Insurance Company
Building photographed from Mannerheimintie, Kaleva Insurance Company (© Kari Hakli / MFA)
Main staircase, Kaleva Insurance Company
Main staircase, Kaleva Insurance Company (© Kari Hakli / MFA)
Interior with original details, Kaleva Insurance Company
Interior with original details, Kaleva Insurance Company (© Kari Hakli / MFA)
Kaivokatu street façade, Kaleva Insurance Company
Kaivokatu street façade, Kaleva Insurance Company (© Eric Sundström / MFA)
Main entrance, Kaleva Insurance Company
Main entrance, Kaleva Insurance Company (© Eric Sundström / MFA)
Main hall, Kaleva Insurance Company
Main hall, Kaleva Insurance Company (© MFA)
Original interior, Kaleva Insurance Company
Original interior, Kaleva Insurance Company (© Eric Sundström / MFA)
Floor plan of the ground floor, Kaleva Insurance Company
Floor plan of the ground floor, Kaleva Insurance Company (© MFA)