Finnish Association of Architects relocates to Väinö Vähäkallio-designed building in Sörnäinen, Helsinki

The Finnish Association of Architects (SAFA) has announced it is relocating to new premises designed by Väinö Vähäkallio in 1933. Located at Hämeentie 19 in the Finnish capital, the building is expected to offer a highly practical yet historic and architecturally significant new setting for the association.

Hämeentie 19 in 1940. Photo: Pietinen Aarne Oy/HKM

“We are delighted to have found new premises that are better placed to support our new hybrid working model. The space is ideally suited for both face-to-face and remote meetings as well as office activities. Our priority as an organisation was to find a space that would only require a minor cosmetic upgrade without the need for major building works or alterations,” Arja Lukin, Secretary-General of SAFA, said.

“The new building is architecturally exceptionally accomplished with wonderfully authentic ambiance, and it benefits from a number of historic features including internal staircases that have been granted protected status. In a happy coincidence, it is designed by Väinö Vähäkallio, who, in 1937, gifted to SAFA the Vähä-Kiljava holiday property, formerly part of the Kytäjä Estate, which we now let out to members and others,” Lukin added.

The new offices are conveniently located close to Sörnäinen metro station, which offers a fast connection to Helsinki Railway Station.

Also based at the new address will be SAFA’s partners, the Information Centre for Finnish Architecture and the Association of Finnish Architects’ Offices, which will allow the three organisations, known as the 3As, to continue their close collaboration.

Former cooperative headquarters with adaptability built in

Väinö Vähäkallio was commissioned to design the building at the corner of Hämeentie and Käenkuja by the Osuustukkukauppa (OTK) cooperative. On its completion, the dark red brick building featured offices, a lecture theatre, a canteen and even a laboratory extending across a total floor area of 29,000 sqm. Other designs by Vähäkallio include the Elanto bakery at Hämeentie dating from 1924 and the Elanto headquarters from 1928. The design for the OTK building included a paternoster lift, which remains in use to this day.

Vähäkallio’s design can be considered forward looking even by today’s standards, not least due to its series of non-loadbearing internal walls. The building also has a high number of windows, placed close together, which allows the interiors to be flexibly adapted to a number of uses.

“As the building remains in its original and unconverted use, it continues to offer excellent office space for today’s needs,” Veera Luostarinen, interior architect at JKMM Architects, said. A new bespoke element added in preparation for SAFA’s arrival is an internal glass partition that has been used to re-establish a previously demolished stretch of wall.

“The new glass walls are recessed into an existing space. The colour scheme takes its cue from the dark skirting boards and doors to allow the new additions to blend in effortlessly. The edging pattern on the linoleum flooring continues to trace the shape of the original layout. In adding these new glass walls and doors, we have sought to pay homage to the original internal arrangement and rhythm,” Luostarinen added.

We look forward to inviting our members and partners to an office warming event, which will take place later this autumn.


From 1 September 2023, the Finnish Association of Architects will be based at its new premises at Hämeentie 19 A, 00500 Helsinki.