Mäntyniemi is the official residence of the President of Finland. The site was designed and built as a symbol for the presidential institution, and no compromises were made in the quality of construction or security, leading to continually inflating costs. The residence was also the last joint work of Raili and Reima Pietilä, as Reima died shortly before it was completed in 1993. The couple received the commission after winning an open competition in 1984.
Mäntyniemi is located in the Meilahti villa area in Western Helsinki, which is characterised by large wooden houses with gardens from the late 19th and the early 20th centuries. However, Pietiläs did not pay much attention to this historical environment but relied on timeless natural themes: bedrocks, pine forests and ice boulders. In the competition entry a crystalline glass pavilion stood on a massive stone podium, the exterior walls meandered following the terrain, and the branch-like wooden window frames imitated the surrounding trees. After the competition, the building became much more closed as the glass was replaced with solid walls to improve security.
The realised building is characterised by granite-faced edgy forms, recalling the 18th century Suomenlinna Sea Fortress. In the interior, Pietiläs tried to avoid excessive monumentality. While the fan-shaped representative spaces open to the sea, the private premises are situated along a curving corridor. Finnish wood species and stones were used in floors, fireplaces, doors and fixtures. The interior design was made by well-known Finnish designers, such as Antti Paatero, Irma Kukkasjärvi and Timo Sarpaneva. Rut Bryk’s large ceramic relief “Jäävirta” is one of the many commissioned art works at Mäntyniemi.
Text: Kristo Vesikansa