The WeeGee Exhibition Centre was originally built for the printing house of the publishing company Weiling & Göös. The first construction phase was completed in 1964 and the second in 1967. Architect Aarno Ruusuvuori’s starting point for the design of the printing house was the production process itself. The central idea took the form of a 27 x 27 metre, two-storey structural-spatial element in which the upper-floor ceiling is suspended from a sturdy concrete tower that rises above the middle of the spatial element. The ground floor comprises a traditional grid of pillars. After the completion of the second phase, the printing works complex consisted of a total of eight 27 x 27 metre spatial elements.
The structural solution minimizes the need for vertical supports on the upper floor, thus enabling the design of the ideal open and expansive space that the printing hall required. The open space was also flexible and made it possible, when necessary, to freely reorganize the work processes. Due to the nature of the printing work, direct sunlight had to be minimized, which is why the upper floor is outwardly closed. Only the north facade is entirely of glass, as Ruusuvuori wanted to open a connection from the printing hall to the landscape of Tapiola.
The building’s ascetic exterior architecture is characterised by the use of concrete and glass as well as precise steel detailing. The ground floor glass facade is slightly recessed from the main building mass, thus highlighting the enclosed printing hall floor above. Eight central towers with oblique supports rise above the roof level and dominate the building’s otherwise minimalist exterior architecture.Weilin & Göös ceased printing operations in the building in 1992, and in 2001 the property came into the ownership of the City of Espoo. After this began the conversion of the building into an exhibition centre, which required large-scale demolition and excavation work. The conversion, designed by Airas Architects, required, for instance, the construction of new stairways, lifts and more than three hundred new rooms as well as the excavation of a large basement beneath the building. Furthermore, the prefabricated concrete element facades and windows had to be renewed.
The WeeGee Exhibition Centre was opened in 2006. Despite the fundamental changes, the essential characteristics of the original building have been preserved. The character of the external architecture is still a minimalist, generously proportioned constructivism. Despite the new spatial arrangements, long vistas and passages through the building have been preserved, and the open plan layout of the upper floor has been restored. Concrete resonates throughout the main spaces, in that the roof structures have been exposed, and the concrete floor has been left intact, with all the traces from the previous building phases.
The WeeGee Exhibition Centre is listed on the DOCOMOMO Finland registered selection of important architectural and environmental modernist sites.
Text: Petteri Kummala / DOCOMOMO Finland