In the 1920s, the United States was an important source of inspiration for Finnish artists. Eliel Saarinen, one of the most famous Finnish architects, moved permanently to the United Stated in 1923 following his success in the Chicago Tribune skyscraper competition. It is no surprise, then, that there was such demand for a skyscraper to symbolize the modernity of the young nation’s capital city. However, the recession of the early 1930s destroyed such fanciful ideas and Hotel Torni was the only skyscraper to be built.
Although it was the highest building in Finland when it was completed, its 14 stories hardly make it a skyscraper. For instance, the Empire State Building, which was completed in New York in the same year, is 381 meters tall. Architecturally this symbol of the new era also represents a rather cautious Modernism. In fact, the glory of the new era is best expressed by its stylish Art Deco interior, which is rather rare in Finland.
Torni’s image was tainted in the 1940s when it was occupied in turn by Germany’s Wehrmacht (1940–41), the women’s auxiliary guard’s air surveillance units (1944) and the Allied Control Commission’s Russian department (1944–47). Torni has since pioneered culinary trends in Finland and is still an impressive sight in the centre of Helsinki. The Ateljee Bar on the top floor of Hotel Torni, which opened in 1951, still offers the most striking views of central Helsinki.