At the start of the 1960s, profound social change was taking place in Finland and an increasing flow of migrants were coming to towns and cities from rural areas. There was a severe lack of housing in urban areas. Pre-fabricated construction was seen as the best way to meet the huge demand. Pre-fabrication made it possible to quickly build high-quality housing at a low cost. Pihlajamäki was the first area in Finland where pre-fabrication was used on large scale. It was a proving ground, and here the dream of a high-quality suburban housing development close to nature came true. In fact, Pihlajamäki was the first 1960s housing estate to be protected in the local detailed plan.

Pihlajamäki is dominated by two groups of five high-rise buildings located on a high hill. These massive ‘sculptures’ freely placed in rocky landscape appear to grow organically out of their dramatic surroundings. The final touch in this controlled composition is an elongated chain of four-storey slab blocks that surrounds the high-rises.

The original light colour of the high-rises has suffered considerably as a result of changes in the materials used in the building’s facades. Nevertheless, the buildings still remain the focal point in the landscape. The Pihlajamäki tower blocks are a striking landmark when approaching Helsinki from the north.

Pihlajamäki Residential Area is listed on the DOCOMOMO Finland registered selection of important architectural and environmental modernist sites.

Location

Graniittitie, Kiilletie, Vuolukiventie, Helsinki
60.23491136, 25.00503302

Images

Aerial view from 1964, Pihlajamäki Residential Area
Aerial view from 1964, Pihlajamäki Residential Area (© SKY-FOTO Möller)
Aerial view in 1970, Pihlajamäki Residential Area
Aerial view in 1970, Pihlajamäki Residential Area (© Museum of Finnish Architecture)
Pihlajamäki in 1965, Pihlajamäki Residential Area
Pihlajamäki in 1965, Pihlajamäki Residential Area (© Volker von Bon / HKM)
Highrises of Pihlajamäki photographed in 1965, Pihlajamäki Residential Area
Highrises of Pihlajamäki photographed in 1965, Pihlajamäki Residential Area (© Volker von Bon / HKM)
Construction site in 1963, Pihlajamäki Residential Area
Construction site in 1963, Pihlajamäki Residential Area (© Foto Roos / HKM)
Construction site in 1963, Pihlajamäki Residential Area
Construction site in 1963, Pihlajamäki Residential Area (© Foto Roos / HKM)