Big City Tales

All Hail to Helsinki | March 22, 2013

Image of Helsinki

Dusk settles over Helsinki, Finland.

As the northernmost urban centre with a metropolitan population of over one million people, there is much to herald about Helsinki, Finland.

Having recently celebrated its 200th anniversary as capital of Finland, this fact alone is worthy of a hearty cheer, but the fanfare doesn’t stop there. Helsinki boasts a number of world-class museums and restaurants, and is also highly regarded for its contributions to the fields of architecture and design.

Image of Helsinki

Nordic design in all its simple, refined glory!

The city is an eclectic mix of Neoclassical, functionalist, modernist and Art Nouveau buildings making it a haven for architectural hounds. Additionally, Helsinki’s use of design as a tool for social, cultural and economic development earned it the title of World Design Capital in 2012.

Here are some Helsinki landmarks that best represent the city’s quintessential style:

Helsingin Tuomiokirkko/Helsinki Cathedral

Located in Senate Square, the Helsinki Cathedral is a showcase of Neoclassical architecture. Designed by renowned German architect Carl Ludvig Engel, the cathedral’s massive green dome dominates the city’s skyline. Built in the 1800s, the cathedral was intended as a tribute to Tsar Nicholas I of Russia who, at the time, was also the Grand Duke of Finland. The cathedral is presently the Diocese of Helsinki for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.

Image of Helsinki Cathedral

Detail of the Helsinki Cathedral.

Tennispalatsi/Tennis Palace

Now an art museum and entertainment complex, the Tennis Palace was originally created in 1938 as a sports facility with four tennis courts. When Helsinki hosted the 1952 Summer Olympics, the venue was used for preliminary round basketball games. The multi-purpose aspect of the building makes it a good example of functionalist principles and style.

Image of Tennis Palace

Functionalist style at its finest in the Tennis Palace.

Katajanokka

The colourful facades of the Katajanokka residential district showcase the essence of Art Nouveau design. Both decorative and dynamic, at the turn of the 20th century the distinctive style began drawing the attention of Helsinki’s upper class with politicians, composers and the like calling the area home.

Image of Art Nouveau residences

The signature Art Nouveau residences of Katajanokka.

While Art Nouveau is Katajanokka’s signature style, the area is also known for the Russian Revival/Byzantine-inspired Uspenski Cathedral. Sitting high on a hillside, the cathedral is the largest of its kind in Western Europe and draws thousands of visitors every year.

Detail of Uspenski Cathedral

The Uspenski Cathedral is an example of Russian Revival/Byzantine architecture.

Finnish Flair

Three cheers to Helsinki on reaching its bicentennial in such fine style and here’s to two hundred more years of design excellence!

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