Viipuri art museum and art school building is located in the Pantsarlahti bastion built during the period of Swedish rule, at the end of Eteläinen Wallikatu street. The building was designed by Viipuri’s leading architect, Uno Ullberg. He had made numerous sketches for the building in various parts of the city over the years. Its final location was decided in 1928. In 1924 the planner and architect Otto-I. Meurman had drawn up a plan in which he had reserved this site for a public building. Ullberg adopted Meurman’s idea of a building mass rising from a high set of steps whose seaward façade would be dominated by a colonnade. The art museum was located in the south wing of the building, and the art school in its north wing. The floor-plan, at first strictly geometrical, developed in a freer direction. The building masses, with their different orientations, enclose between them a fan-like inner courtyard led to by the gate in which the stairway culminates. The courtyard opens out to the sea through a broad double colonnade.
The setting of the building in the terrain makes reference to classical Greece and the intimate scale of the inner courtyard to Italy. Ullberg emphasised the different functions of the different parts of the building in the articulation of the façades. The main façades are classical, while the secondary façades are almost purely functionalist. The white walls, ribbon-like windows and flat roofs are functionalist features, while the slender columns and the ornamentation that accompanies the entire building are classical. Ullberg’s building is generally considered one of the main works of stripped-back classicism in Finland.
Text: Juhana Lahti / 20th Century Architecture, MFA