Tapiolan Aino and Sampo Housing
Viikinmäki is Helsinki’s most exciting new urban district. The city plan and building guidelines are intended to facilitate the creation of a city district with a Mediterranean feel. In parts this has already been successful, but the appeal of Viikinmäki is hampered by the fact that the area is still a building site. Some of the blocks are already completed, as are a school and kindergarten, and there is a convenient bus connection to the centre of Helsinki. The closest public services, however, are in Viikki, on the other side of the Lahdenväylä motorway.
Looking from the direction of the motorway, one’s attention is drawn to the white building on the ridge of the hill. The three large areas of glass in the facades first give the impression of an office building. A second look, however, reveals that this is indeed a residential building. The building is an excellent example of how a difficult premise – a location next to a busy traffic artery – can be turned into an advantage. The result is an exceptional living environment, as well as skilfully designed high-rise apartments. These are, in our current property developer-led housing construction, a rapidly disappearing resource.
Viewed from the motorway below, the building looks impressive. Especially in the evening, the warm colours of the courtyards show through the glass walls. When approaching the apartment building along the residential street, up the hill and on top of it, one gets an idea of the uniqueness of the Viikinmäki city plan. We are truly in a “hill town” district. The smaller side streets curve naturally, following the topography.
From the street side, Sinisimpukka looks relatively conventional. The surprise comes when one goes to look for the stairwells. They do not exist in the traditional sense, but rather the lifts and stairways are placed in the exterior space in accordance with the idea of the garden-courtyard, and are found in the recesses of the entrance courtyard.
From every level, and especially from the upper floors, there are magnificent views over the fields of Viikki and all the way to the centre of Helsinki. The architects have come up with a fun southern design solution by placing the kitchens and dining areas of the apartments on the courtyard side. This creates a certain kind of cosiness, and one would hope that the residents would indeed make more use of the areas in front of their entrance door. Some of them have already placed slender metal garden chairs beside the glass wall, as a kind of front yard, though all the apartments have, of course, also their own spacious balconies.
The spatial layouts of the apartments have been skilfully designed. Among the various apartment types there is not a single one that does not do justice to the location and scenery. The most private spaces of the apartments, such as the living rooms and bedrooms, all overlook the outer periphery of the block.
The courtyard gardens have suffered somewhat from the very severe winter. The concrete walls surrounding the gardens have been carefully cast on site, but otherwise a solution cheaper than the rendered walls originally planned has been implemented, that is, painted prefabricated walls. Due to the cast in-situ concrete frame and in the experience of the residents, the sound insulation is impeccable. The parking spaces are located in a multi-level parking facility, which is clad with blasted granite boulders. Leading there is a magnificent turreted wooden bridge.
Sinisimpukka is one of Helsinki’s most interesting apartment buildings, a well-kept and magnificent secret. But, do not be fooled by the timeless and tranquil appearance – the real values and skill in housing design lie completely elsewhere than in fashionable facade motifs.
Text summarized from Tarja Nurmi’s article in Finnish Architectural Review 4/2016