Aleksis Kiven katu 19 Housing
Pohjolanaukio Square in the district of Käpylä is one of Helsinki’s many open urban spaces whose potential has largely been under-utilised. In a draft plan for Käpylä in 1917, Birger Brunila and Otto-Iivari Meurman proposed to terminate Pohjolankatu street with a monumental building, in front of which was a public square demarcated by enclosed urban blocks. In practice, however, the square ended up forming a nebulous traffic intersection lined with free-standing apartment blocks.
With the completion of a residential building a couple of years ago, the place has become much more urban, and the vision of Brunila and Meurman has taken shape more clearly. Unlike in many other infill projects, also the locals have welcomed the newcomer. The name of the building Posteljooni (”Postman”), has been taken from the Käpylä Post Office (designed by Woldemar Backman and completed in 1972), which was demolished to make way for it.
The new building has been skilfully placed on the cramped plot. The U-shaped volume wraps around the courtyard that opens towards the south-west, protecting it from traffic noise and exhaust fumes. By utilising the differences in the ground levels of the plot, the residents’ garage has very discreetly been placed beneath the yard deck. On the ground floor, along the Pohjolanaukio side, there are also retail spaces.
The most recognisable feature of the building is its silhouette, consisting of asymmetrical pitched roofs. The motif has been cultivated frequently in recent years, especially in infill building projects. The lower edges of the roof eaves are aligned with the adjacent buildings, so that the new building, which is somewhat taller than its neighbours, does not dominate its surroundings.
Due to the heavy traffic, the façades along Kullervonkatu street and Pohjolanaukio Square are rather solid. The building’s 57 owner-occupied apartments are grouped around three stairwells. The balcony glazing infills, thin metal balusters, vertical ceramic stave façade elements, wood-clad rear walls and entrance recesses together form a multi-layered kinetic composition, the appearance of which changes according to the weather and time of day.
The yard, designed by Masu Planning, complements the architecture, and the yellow-brick ground level can be regarded as the courtyard’s fourth façade. Käpylän Posteljooni Housing was designed by Selina Anttinen, Vesa Oiva, Kaisa Lintula and Sanna Meriläinen (Anttinen Oiva Architects).
Text: Finnish Architectural Review 3/2019