Architect
Osmo Lappo
Design
1966
Completion
1974
Gross area
87200 m²
Category
Assembly buildings Educational buildings
Tags
art Brutalism cinema concrete DOCOMOMO garrison Modernism multipurpose

A major restructuring of the Finnish Defence Forces took place in the 1950s and 1960s when the garrisons in urban centres were transferred to rural areas, to modern and strategically better placed “wilderness garrisons”. The project’s clear regional policy objectives were laudably combined with architectural ambition. A key architect in the change was Osmo Lappo, who designed the central areas of the garrisons in Säkylä (1963-67), Kajaani (1962-68) and Vekaranjärvi.

The central area of the Vekaranjärvi barracks, situated about 40 km north of Kouvola, comprises a sports hall, soldiers’ mess, cinema and canteen, each of which were freely placed around  a rectangular central square. The 3000-strong garrison force provided guidelines for the scale: the dining room has a capacity of 1250 people, the soldiers’ mess 1000 and the cinema 540. The sports hall comprises three gym halls and an indoor swimming pool. Events involving the entire garrison can be held in the central square.

The complex is architecturally minimalist and consciously coarse-grained. The 2-3-storey buildings comprised of a pillar frame construction were built mainly with cast in-situ reinforced concrete. Despite the buildings’ military character and the magnitude of the scale, Lappo had by means of various recesses and fenestration designs managed to avoid “supermarket-type boxes without any scale” (Arkkitehti 1/1975, 24). The concrete surfaces have traces of the shuttering, thus creating a lively relief. In addition, the buildings have been placed carefully in relation to each other and the ridge landscape, and consequently the centre of the barracks area forms a cohesive milieu of large concrete sculpture-like objects.

A special feature of the Vekaranjärvi barracks area is the supergraphics by artist Howard Smith, which Lappo wanted as a counterpoint to the grey general tone. There are three nonfigurative works by Smith in Vekaranjärvi: in the conscripts’ room of the soldiers’ mess is ‘Yellow Parade’, on the rear wall of the canteen is ‘Target’, and on the exterior wall of the cinema is ‘The Battle of Loimola’.

The Vekaranjärvi barracks area is in the use of the Karelia Brigade, and its basic architectural characteristics have been well preserved. The barracks buildings are due to be renovated in stages by the year 2020.

Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre is listed on the DOCOMOMO Finland registered selection of important architectural and environmental modernist sites.

Text: Petteri Kummala / DOCOMOMO Finland

Location

Varuskunnantie 230, Kouvola
61.1132173, 26.9834651

Images

Covered entrance to the sports centre, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre
Covered entrance to the sports centre, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre (© Simo Rista / MFA)
Barracks area central square, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre
Barracks area central square, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre (© Simo Rista / MFA)
Barracks area central square, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre
Barracks area central square, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre (© Simo Rista / MFA)
View towards soldier's home's main entrance, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre
View towards soldier's home's main entrance, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre (© Simo Rista / MFA)
Dining hall from the west, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre
Dining hall from the west, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre (© Simo Rista / MFA)
North elevation of the soldier's home mess, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre
North elevation of the soldier's home mess, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre (© Simo Rista / MFA)
Cinema entrance hall, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre
Cinema entrance hall, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre (© Simo Rista / MFA)
Interior of the cinema, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre
Interior of the cinema, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre (© Simo Rista / MFA)
Interior of the gym, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre
Interior of the gym, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre (© Simo Rista / MFA)
Sports centre swimming hall, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre
Sports centre swimming hall, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre (© Simo Rista / MFA)
Interior of the dining hall, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre
Interior of the dining hall, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre (© Simo Rista / MFA)
Interior of the mess, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre
Interior of the mess, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre (© Simo Rista / MFA)
Site plan of the garrison area, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre
Site plan of the garrison area, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre (© Osmo Lappo)
Perspective drawing, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre
Perspective drawing, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre (© Osmo Lappo)
Floor plans of the soldier's home, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre
Floor plans of the soldier's home, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre (© Osmo Lappo)
Floor plans of the sports hall, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre
Floor plans of the sports hall, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre (© Osmo Lappo)
Floor plans of the dining hall building, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre
Floor plans of the dining hall building, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre (© Osmo Lappo)
Floor plans of the cinema, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre
Floor plans of the cinema, Vekaranjärvi Garrison Centre (© Osmo Lappo)