At the time of its completion in the 1950s, Pieni Roobertinkatu 9 was an ultra-modern retail space. Now, it is to become the headquarters of a creative and well-networked co-work community.
Pieni Roobertinkatu 9 was completed in 1959, in the middle of intense economic growth and the golden age of Finnish design and architecture. The building, located in the Kaartinkaupunki area in Helsinki, was originally the retail space of the Helsinki Telephone Association (Helsingin Puhelinyhdistys).
The property, which served as a modern telephone exchange in its time, is an example of the clean lines and polished look typical of the 1950s. Its neighbours include many Art Nouveau buildings that were completed in the late 19th century.
Pieni Roobertinkatu 9 is a part of the Miekkakala (Swordfish) block, which is very important in terms of cultural history. For example, the old head office of the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper is located nearby on Ludviginkatu.
At the time of the completion of the building in the 1950s, Finland’s economy was growing intensely. The customer numbers of the Helsinki Telephone Association were increasing rapidly. By the early 1960s, the number of subscriptions to the Telephone Association’s network had already doubled.
The Association had acquired the property at Pieni Roobertinkatu 9 already in 1939, with future needs for expansion in mind. The plot was originally home to a wooden house, which was demolished to make way for new construction after the war.
Functionalism and modern telephone technology
At the time of its completion, Pieni Roobertinkatu 9 really stood out due to both its modern facade and the telephone technology within the building. The building was equipped with telephone exchange facilities for 20,000 customers, and its underground floors contained technological equipment.
The building contains a raster facade typical of the office buildings of the time, consisting of windows and outer wall panels that were attached to a grating made of thin metal profiles. In addition to the raster facade, the property was decorated with functionalist-style continuous windows.
The building has six floors and two basement floors. The volume of the building is 19,000 cubic metres. Some 10,000 cubic metres of the total volume is located below street level. The property has undergone numerous changes during its lifetime, but its original facade has been preserved.
The building was designed by architect Kurt Simbert, assisted by Karl-Erik Hagner and Per-Mauritz Ålander. Simberg was an award-winning Finnish architect who primarily worked with industrial and retail buildings. Among his most famous designs is the Svenska Handelshögskolan (the Swedish-language School of Economics) building, also known as Hanken, located in the corner of Runeberginkatu and Arkadiankatu.
A complete makeover
Sponda acquired the property in 2005. For a long time, the office spaces were leased to the Cancer Society of Finland. The basement premises are still used by teleoperator Elisa Oyj, continuing the story of the Helsinki Telephone Association.
Now the Sponda property will be turned into the first communal working space for independent professionals and small companies, known as the Mothership of Work. the new co-working concept will change the buildingʼs design and looks. The renovation works are already ongoing.
“For the customer, the new communal concept will combine ease and flexibility and polished design, regarding both the space and the services. Developing work and work environment concepts is new to Sponda as well as to the Finnish real estate market in general,” says Tiia-Maria Koivusaari, Sponda’s Account Manager.
Text: Nina Garlo-Melkas