In 1913, a new stone building was added to the Lohi block in Helsinki’s Kaartinkaupunki district. Over the years, the hundred-year-old property at Korkeavuorenkatu 45 has been converted from a residential building to modern business premises that are now home to Sponda’s head office.
In 1913, the old wood building at Korkeavuorenkatu 45 was replaced by a new stone
building. The new building was designed by Helsinki-based architect Albert Alexander Nyberg. Nyberg’s tour de force in Helsinki’s business district has been completely renovated over the years. Simo Järvinen Architects designed a new annex for the property, which was completed in 1984 to replace an old courtyard building.
The property, which represents the late Jugend era of architecture, was acquired by Sponda in December 1997. Sponda’s head office relocated to the building in August 2006. Prior to this, the plot of land and the buildings on it was owned by SKOP Bank, which had acquired the building from the bankrupt Oskar Salonen Foundation.
A time of changes in the 1980s
The building saw its most significant changes in the mid-1980s. The developer was Samerka Oy, the procurement and planning arm of SKOP Bank. The project was led by master builder Tor Skog and the interior was designed by interior architect Toini Pursula.
Before the new construction was carried out, the building was classified by a zoning provision as a valuable and protected building for the purpose of preserving the cityscape, which meant that changes were kept to a minimum in renovating the property into an office building. The design work began in early 1982, and the renovated building was open for use in summer 1984.
“The old property was restored and an old courtyard building was replaced by a newly constructed glass-walled building. The courtyard was dug open and amount of two basement levels’ of rock were excavated from the site. On the small plot of land, excavators lifted large blocks of stone to Korkeavuorenkatu.”
“It was quite a scene,” says Architect Jarmo Nuutinen, who participated in planning the renovation project from the early stages until the building was ready for use. According to Nuutinen, the street-facing building was well preserved in the renovation and clearly represents the late Jugend era. The building features characteristics of both the Jugend style as well as classicism, which became popular after the 1930s.
“In the renovation, the housing solutions in the old part was completely replaced, while the facade was maintained to preserve the building’s original spirit. The original Kone lift in stairway A, which dates back to 1913, was also carefully renovated to maintain its historical look. The newly constructed building in the courtyard, however, was more modern with glass surfaces that created a contrast with the older building.”
Nuutinen points out that parking space for some ten cars was built in the basement level of the property. The parking is accessible via a car lift, which is a rare luxury in Helsinki’s central business district. Another significant aspect of the building was its security, which was advanced for its time and even included bulletproof glazing in certain areas.
According to Nuutinen, the construction project was not particularly problematic, but the small plot of land and space leased from the street on the Korkeavuorenkatu side meant that the work needed to be carefully planned and managed.
“One example of these challenges was that all new concrete used for the building was delivered to a concrete container on the street, from which it was hoisted by a crane located inside the courtyard over the roof of the old building to the construction site.”
Nuutinen says the differences between the old and new parts of the block meant that the property had a combination office structure, which was increasingly common at the time, with traditional office space in the old building and more open workspace in the new building.
“A water-themed light shaft was placed at the back wall of the new building, and the natural light it allowed in ensured that the premises met the legal requirements for office space. The openness of the building’s street level and the option of a doorway in the direction of Rikhardinkatu Library are traces of urban planning trends in the early 1980s, involving pedestrian streets in central Helsinki.
Men of faith and advocates of abstinence
The premises at Korkeavuorenkatu 45 have seen a wide range of tenants through the years. One of the oldest – Suomen kansan ryhtiliike – was an association established in 1949 that focused on promoting good manners and monitoring the alcohol consumption habits of Finns. The association was funded by the state alcohol monopoly Oy Alkoholiliike Ab. The City of Helsinki also supported the association by awarding it a grant of FIM 500,000 in 1952, the year Helsinki hosted the Summer Olympics.
The premises were once also the home of the offices of Oskar Salonen Foundation. The foundation was established by businessman Oskar Salonen, who in the 1960s, made a substantial donation to his eponymous foundation to support the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
The past tenants of the property also include the photography shop Fototalo, a bookstore and the restaurant Kuparipannu. Today, the building houses Sponda’s head office as well as Ristorante Gastone and the specialty retail store Kokkipuoti at street level.