Pohjola Insurance building
The Pohjola Insurance building is the former headquarters of the Pohjola Insurance Company at Aleksanterinkatu 44 and Mikonkatu 3 in central Helsinki. Primarily designed by Gesellius, Lindgren & Saarinen and constructed in 1899–1901, it is a prominent example of Finnish national romantic architecture. It was acquired in 1972 by Kansallis-Osake-Pankki, now succeeded by Nordea.
The Pohjola Insurance Company (precursor of OP Financial Group) was founded in 1891 and specialised in fire insurance. They held a competition for the design of their headquarters, which would also house another Fennomane insurance company, Kullervo, with the specification that the building must be of fire-resistant stone. Based on the submissions, they commissioned Gesellius, Lindgren & Saarinen to design the exteriors and major interior spaces, but Ines and Ernst A. Törnvall were responsible for the plans. It was the first commercial building by Gesellius, Lindgren & Saarinen.
The building is national romantic in style, with façades of rough-hewn soapstone, red granite and serpentine decorated with sculptures of vegetation, squirrels, and figures from Kalevala, and on the street corner a tower with a pinecone-shaped roof. When it was built, a reviewer dwelt on its "Finnish-naturalistic" style, but in form the exterior may have been influenced by contemporary American buildings: Henry Hobson Richardson's Cheney Building similarly uses a corner tower, and the use of windows resembles that in Louis Sullivan's Auditorium Building. Another Finnish architect, Bertel Jung, criticised the romantic elements as embodying "primitive, partially crude and untamed force". Other reviewers praised it for its comparability to buildings in other countries and to their use of ornament.
Lindgren, the member of the firm who appears to have been most attached to national romanticism, greatly influenced the ornamentation of this building. The main entrance, designed by Hilda Flodin, a pupil of Rodin, is flanked by the names of the two insurance companies, both from Kalevala, and by devils, monsters or trolls; bears, the symbol of the insurance company, top the pilasters and also appear in the interior decoration. The door itself is deeply recessed under an arch, and the vestibule continues the allusion to medieval architecture, with vaulting and with carved animals topping pillars. The rest of the interior also used rustic and folklore motifs, with doorways by Erik O. W. Ehrström, iron wheel chandeliers by G. W. Sohlberg, and a circular main stairway with a cast-iron banister with pine-tree motifs; the newel posts and the benches on the landings were carved wood depicting fern leaves and, again, trolls, and the stained glass featured ferns and owls. The service hall on the first floor was given red pine panelling and a central pillar styled to resemble a tree trunk. However, it has a steel core; behind the façades the building is brick with structural steel and from the start had Swedish-made lifts as well as an electrical generator. The structural engineer was Elia Heikel, who was also working at the time on the Lundqvist Building opposite, which is seen as the first modern commercial building in Finland.
The building originally had flats on the upper three floors. It was acquired in 1972 by Kansallis-Osake-Pankki, a bank which has subsequently been merged to form Nordea, but until 1987 Pohjola Insurance still had some customer service operations in the building. The customer service hall has since then been used as banqueting space. The tobacconist's Havanna-Aitta has been in the ground-floor commercial space for decades.
- Jonathan Moorhouse, Michael Carapetian and Leena Ahtola-Moorhouse, Helsinki Jugendstil architecture, 1895–1915, Helsinki: Otava, 1987, ISBN 9789511083825, pp. 108–09.
- Eeva Järvenpää, "Kämp palasi yli 30 vuoden jälkeen takaisin Antiloopin kortteliin", Helsingin Sanomat, 20 May 2006, (in Finnish).
- Finland, ed. Marja-Riitta Norri, Elina Standertskjöld and Wilfried Wang, tr. Hildi Hawkins et al., 20th-Century Architecture 7, Munich/London/New York: Prestel, 2000, ISBN 9789525195101, pp. 30–31, 153.
- "Vakuutusyhtiö Pohjolan talo: Suomalaisuus arkkitehtuurissa", Virtuaalinen Arkkitehtuurikävely, Avoin Yliopisto [Open University], University of Helsinki, retrieved 11 May 2016 (in Finnish).
- J. M. Richards, (1978). 800 Years of Finnish Architecture, Newton Abbot, Devon: David & Charles, 1978, ISBN 9780715375129, p. 120.
- Moorhouse, Carapetian and Ahtola-Moorhouse, pp. 101, 109.
- "Pohjola Insurance Building", Places, Atlas Obscura, retrieved 10 May 2016.
- Charlotte Ashby, "The Pohjola building: reconciling contradictions in Finnish architecture around 1900", in Nationalism and Architecture, ed. Raymond Quek and Darren Deane with Sarah Butler, Ashgate Studies in Architecture, Farnham, Surrey / Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate, 2012, ISBN 9781409433859, pp. 135–46, pp. 138, 140.
- Jeremy Howard, (1996). Art Nouveau: International and National Styles in Europe, Manchester / New York: Manchester University, 1996, ISBN 9780719041600, p. 177.
- Cited in Esko Järventaus, "Rakennustaide ja tekniikka", Suomen rakennushallinto 1811–1961, Helsinki: Rakennushallitus, 1967, OCLC 492537780, pp. 405–06, quoted in translation Moorhouse, Carapetian and Ahtola-Moorhouse, p. 108.
- Arvi Ilonen, Museum of Finnish Architecture, Helsinki, Espoo, Kauniainen, Vantaa: An Architectural Guide, Helsinki: Otava, 1990, ISBN 9789511107620, p. 45.
- Ingeborg Becker and Sigrid Melchior, eds. (2002). Das Licht kommt jetzt von Norden: Jugendstil in Finnland, exhibition catalogue, Berlin: Bröhan-Museum, 2002, ISBN 9783980789417, p. 80, see this as coincidental.
- Roger Connah, Finland: Modern Architectures in History, London: Reaktion, 2005, ISBN 9781861892508, n.p..
- Ashby, p. 142.
- Becker and Melchior, p. 81.
- Riitta Nikula, tr. Malcolm Hicks, Wood, Stone and Steel: Contours of Finnish Architecture, Helsinki: Otava, 2005, ISBN 9789511201373, p. 103.
- Ashby, p. 141.
- Edward R. Ford, The Details of Modern Architecture, 2 vols., Volume 2 1928–1988, Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT, 2003, ISBN 9780262562027, p. 27.
- Pekka Korvenmaa, tr. Jüri Kokkonen, Innovation Versus Tradition: The Architect Lars Sonck: Works and Projects, 1900–1910, Suomen Muinaismuistoyhdistyksen aikakauskirja 96, Helsinki: [Suomen Muinaismuistoyhdistys], 1991, ISBN 9789519056999, p. 108.
- Jacek Purchla and Wolf Tegethoff, eds., Comité international d'histoire de l'art, Nation, Style, Modernism, Proceedings of the international conference under the patronage of Comité International d'Histoire de l'Art (CIHA), organized by the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Munich, and the International Cultural Centre, Cracow 6 – 12 September, 2003, CIHA conference papers 1, Cracow: International Cultural Centre / Munich: Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, 2006, ISBN 9788389273369, p. 115.
- Norri, Standertskjöld and Wang, eds., pp. 152–53; according to this source, the building is supported by floor-to-ceiling columns of cast iron, not steel.
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