Vallila Area, Helsinki, Finland


Location: Helsinki, Finland

Year: 2004 - 2008

Size: 84,000 m2

Programme: Feasibility, master plan and concept design




In 2004 Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects were commissioned by developers YIT Oy to produce planning and development solutions for the Vallila Konepaja area.  Over a four year period thorough investigations were undertaken as to potential methods of reuse for what was previously a railway machine works facility. The building itself is of a high architectural and cultural interest, with beautiful cast iron fittings, original brickwork and an intricate roof structure.


Work on the general design included investigating uses and renovation tactics for the old buildings, as well as planning potential uses which would integrate the site into the more recent urban fabric in a responsible and effective way, whilst maintaining the prominence and beauty of the existing structure. Parking and traffic solutions were examined as well as the construction of civil defence shelters; however the outcome was that the historic buildings should serve cultural, office and commercial uses. The master plan for this was completed in 2006.


During the summer and autumn of 2006, work continued with more focus being put on the most central buildings of the area. Work was produced on the concept design phases for the assembly hall, paint shop and parking building. Consultations with traffic designers and fire safety experts were conducted at this stage. Throughout the work on the project, Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects were in close contact with the National Board of Antiquities (Museovirasto) and the Helsinki City Planning Department (Kaupunkisuunnitteluvirasto).

The goals of the City and the National Board of Antiquities were included prominently in the design. The City required the area to be preserved as a common living room to the urban citizen; an emphasis was to be put on culture. The Board of Antiquities viewed that the most important aspect for preservation, was the ceiling; an intricate, riveted steel trussed ceiling with railway track columns. Alongside this, the original red brick façade with its fenestration and lanterns must remain. Taking both of these requirements on board, Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects conceived the solution of placing construction within the existing halls. These ‘buildings within buildings’ could be celebrated as new pieces of architecture, whilst keeping the beautiful existing structures and allowing them to be appreciated for what they are. 


Both on an urban and micro scale, the design creates an urban environment which regains its relevance to the communities that exist there today, bringing coherence to the urban fabric. Whilst at the same time, the industrial history and identity - which played such a key role to the area in days gone by - is not only preserved but is celebrated.