Guided tours presenting Sponda’s legendary buildings that are over 100 years old have proved to be popular. All guided tours filled up quickly. On the tours, the participants hear stories about the significant buildings and the Finnish history but they also share their own memories.

Friday afternoon and the five o’clock traffic jam at its worst in Helsinki city centre. People are rushing home, to do their shopping and whatever the night holds for them.

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At the same time, a group of around twenty people walk first from Kamppi to Hotel Seurahuone and continue along Kaivokatu towards the Fennia building.

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They are on a Sponda Legends walking tour where people get to know more about Sponda’s properties that are over 100 years old. Sponda has a total of 13 of these properties with cultural and historical significance, and four of these will be presented in more detail on the Legends tour.

All three tours organised this autumn filled up quickly. According to Sponda’s Marketing and Brand Manager Anita Riikonen, some people were even left out.

Reminiscence and dialogue

Also researcher Petteri Kummala from the Museum of Finnish Architecture has noticed that the walking tours are popular.

“Maybe they are a nice way of getting to know more about your home town or getting to know a new place,” says Kummala who is the guide on the Legends tours.

Not only information is shared on the tour but also memories. A couple that has been married for long thinks back to their first date at the corner of the Koitto building. In the 1930s, one participant’s mother worked as a waitress in Hotel Seurahuone and even got to serve coffee to the Marshal of Finland Mannerheim in his cabinet.

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Kummala loves to listen to people’s stories. During the summer, he made a huge effort by going through all the possible sources on the old properties owned by Sponda, but not even the most thorough researcher can find all the anecdotes.

“I very much enjoy the dialogue on the tours,” says Kummala.

Political and cinematic history

On Rautatientori Square, busy people barely look around them, let alone up, but Kummala leads his group in front of Casino Helsinki.

“This was a strong political message,” says Kummala, talking about the old Fennia building that was erected in a central place during the Russification of Finland.

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First, Fennia is Latin for Finland. Second, the names of European capitals were carved in the facade of the hotel building completed in 1899. According to Kummala, these names link Finland in the tradition of Western Europe rather than Russia.

Fennia has also made Finnish cinema history. A film called “Sylvi”, based on a play by Finnish writer and activist Minna Canth, was filmed on the roof in 1911.

“This means that Fennia also played a part in the development of a new art form,” says Kummala.

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Gunta Krumina and Yki Hytönen participated in the tour, listening to Kummala carefully and presenting questions. Hytönen is a historian who has worked at the photography archives of the City of Helsinki, among other places.

Stories show the city in a different light

The couple believes that, in future, they will see these historical buildings in a different light as their history and stories have been opened up in such a lively manner.

Krumina and Hytönen especially value that the tour grants access to buildings that you couldn’t visit otherwise. They wish that property owners would open their buildings more to the residents of Helsinki.

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Kummala shares this wish. He remarks that Helsinki has plenty of interesting modern buildings, for instance the property known as Makkaratalo (“Sausage House”) that we see in front of us at the end of the tour.

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Published

29.9.2017
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