Maritime Centre Vellamo, Kotka, Finland

Location: Kotka, Finland

Year: 2008

Total Area: 15,000m2

Client: City of Kotka

Programme: Maritime Museum of Finland, Museum of Kymenlaakso, shop, restaurant, library, teaching rooms and a 250 seat auditorium


Visiting details can be found on the museum website here




 - Vellamo stands as a monument in a recently de-industrialised port

 - The sloped roof which ends in a concrete wave, becomes a public space

 - Fritted glass and steel panels project a history of the area

 - The multi-toned panels blend the building into both sea and sky

 - Wooden crafted interiors bring the large industrial port back a human scale




Vellamo, the Maritime Centre in Kotka, stands in the post industrial port as a monument to, and a reminder of, the city’s long maritime history. Within the centre are two museums, the Maritime Museum of Finland and the Museum of Kymenlaakso – the Finnish region to which Kotka belongs. The building also houses a museum shop, restaurant, the local library, teaching rooms as well as a 250 seat auditorium.


Kotka has, since its formation, had an intense relationship with the water. Its strategic position on the Baltic Sea meant that it became a booming hub for trade and the military, helped by the Kymijoki river which also runs through the city. But, as with many European cities, globalisation and the move to deeper ports resulted in the decline of the city’s industry. And, for years, the once booming ports remained dilapidated and quiet.


However, in 2008, Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects completed Vellamo, named after the Finnish mythological goddess of water, lakes and the seas. The massive structure brings back the sense of oceanic monumentality, which once the huge ships would have sailed in with them. The industrial scale of the harbour, and the sheer power that carried with it, is returned; and still with the original ship cranes standing guard.


The building rises up out of the ground, its roof a path, bringing visitors higher up the structure ending in massive concrete and steel wave. Practically speaking, this creates a sheltered public and performance space. Symbolically speaking, even from across the harbour, the building as a whole immediately reminds one of the oceans. The façade, a three-dimensional mix of fritted glass and steel panels, resembles the shimmering surface of the sea. And, when a slight wind roughens the water in the harbour, the building blends seamlessly into its surroundings.


Inside, visitors are greeted by warm oak lining the floors and walls – a welcome retreat from what can be a harsh Finnish coastal climate. And yet, the material palette combined with the smooth curvature of many of the surfaces still evoke ideas of maritime construction, boats, Finnish craft and the history of the site. Lahdelma & Mahlamäki’s attention to detail inside returns the building back to a human scale and allows the visitors to approach the exhibits in a much more personal way than with the industrial scale of its surroundings outside.




Annual Lighting Contest, Outdoor Lighting, first prize, 2009

Colour09 Competition, first prize, 2009

Steel Structure of the Year, 2008

Mies van der Rohe, nomination, 2008




Easton Commercial Centre, Helsinki, 2017

Kastelli School and Community Centre, Oulu, 2014

Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw, 2013

Finnish Nature Centre, Haltia, 2003




Architects Lahdelma & Mahlamäki 

Ilmari Lahdelma and Rainer Mahlamäki with Juha Heino, Marko Santala, Tarja Suvisto, Teemu Halme, Minna Lahdelma, Katri Rönkä, Juho Vuolteenaho, Jesperi Vara, Risto Wikberg, Anne Harju, Leila Hyttinen, Marjo Korolainen (interior design), Liisa Viljakainen (interior design), Timo Ripatti (exhibition design) and Mia Bungers (exhibition design).


Exhibition Design / Museum of Kymenlaakso: Demodesign Oy, Jyrki Vainio


Civil Engineering: Insinööritoimisto Magnus Malmberg Oy


Electrical Engineering: Insinööoritoimisto Lausamo Oy


HVAC Engineering: Kontermo Oy


Construction: Lemcon Oy, LSK Electrics Oy, Are Oy, Putkihanke Oy


Images by Jussi Tiainen