This primary school, daycare centre and club room unit is in an old complex that had grown, changed and finally decayed over the course of 140 years. The buildings were renovated for adaptive reuse in the end of 1980s.
The Merikasarmi (Naval barracks) group, one of architect C.L. Engel’s main works, was built in the 1810s to 1930s on the yard of an artillery depot dating from Swedish rule. Since the early 19th century, the monumental complex has been surrounded by utility buildings in red brick or wood. Plans were already made for new buildings west of Merikasarmi in Engel’s time, and his successor E.B. Lohrmann was in charge of the compilation of a master scheme for the barracks area (1844).
At the end of the 19th century, this area was used as a Russian naval base. On the threshold of the First World War, a large number of (usually) red-brick workshops and maintenance buildings were built on the eastern tip of Katajanokka which were used by the naval shipyard. The number of these early industrial buildings was possibly highest just after the independence. In 1918, when the naval workshops were handed over to the Finnish government, the Finnish defence forces had taken over most of the barracks, and the Valmet shipyard used the docks and engineering works. Both gradually moved out as of the late 1960s and early 1970s.The oldest parts of the school block are two wings at angles to Laivastokuja: one was a ‘manège’, the other a two-storey workshop. The new school has been produced partly by restoring the old complex and partly by building new facilities inside the old walls. The primary school facilities called for by the room programme (nine basic classes) fit well in the framework offered by the old buildings. The manège has been turned into the gym/main hall. At the Laivastokuja end is the dining room. The old gateway has been converted into an entrance lobby. Together, all these facilities can also be used in the evenings for local Katajanokka functions. The main hall acoustics have been adjusted for chamber concerts, for instance, using panels that protect the lower part of the walls.
The special classrooms and staff and administration facilities are in the old two-storey workshop building. The old concrete-built interior is the main centre of the school’s activities. Originally open-plan, the engineering works have now been divided into classrooms, using glass and wood partition walls. The central hall takes its light through a new glass roof like the original one. In the middle, a system of low shelving is used to divide off group work and library facilities, and there are reading galleries off the new stairways at the ends of the hall. These, together with the low sidewalls, the coloured panels on the clothes-peg walls and the lightning arrangement, contribute to the sense of small scale created to counterbalance the large hall space so as to give the children a feeling of security.
The elevations have mainly been repaired and restored. On the other hand, nearly all the windows have had to be replaced. The old cornices in profiled brick have been repaired. The interiors have been partly restored. The mouldings inside the old manège have been plaster-covered following models from surviving fragments. The colour scheme in the hall section and the older workshop wing has been restored following original samples that were discovered, using the same fresco painting technique. The new details and materials are as restrained as possible, to ensure that the old facilities are dominant and the repaired/restored parts and the new additions can be clearly distinguished.
The only building demolished was that on the yard side. Part of the outside wall was preserved and turned into the garden wall against which the new rain shelter stands. New openings were made where necessary in the firewall on the prison side. The old chimney in the yard has been restored as a eminder of the old industry.
The Luotsi daycare centre is in an old wood and metalworking shop from the beginning of the 20th century which stands south of the school building. There were no interiors worthy of restoration in the building, and new facilities for three daycare groups were designed in the framework of a renovated outer shell. Each group has its own direct entrance onto the yard with a covered area for play. The old windows were renovated and painted. The rows of high windows along the elevation are the most important motif of the new interiors, and the new glass walls leave them visible throughout. Walls of wood and glass were used inside to create a new small-scale world for the children, to counterbalance the rather vast framework provided by the old workshop. The auxiliary facilities are closest to the centre of the building, against the main bearing wall.
The club rooms are in a small building with a checkered history which has variously been used as a storehouse, a vehicle store and as shipyard staff facilities. The original drawings (1844) were signed by Ernst Lohrmann and A.W. Arppe.Vilhelm Helander was in charge of the design of the restoration and adaptive reuse. He collaborated with Merja Nieminen in the design of Luotsi Daycare Centre and club rooms.
Source: Finnish Architectural Review 6/1986