Originally designed as a bank, Jugend Hall was built as an extension in the courtyard of an empire-style merchant house from the 1810s. A new, prestigious entrance fit for a bank was opened onto the existing street façade. The two architects divided the assignment, with Sonck designing the interior spaces and Jung overseeing the rich ornamentation and furnishings. The parameters for Sonck’s work were dictated by the site: inside the city block, the only source of natural light came from the ceiling. Sonck’s sculptural solution is unique in Finnish art nouveau architecture: the ceiling vault with its support arches in the main room is like a Viking ship turned upside down.
On both sides are low-ceilinged aisles separated from the main hall by heavy granite columns and pointed arches, borrowing the layout of a three-aisled church. However, the soft light from above, the wooden wall supports and skylight frames and the tapering shape of the space itself create an original synthesis and an atmosphere that, far from being a loan from of medieval stone churches, is rather a mature expression of novel architecture drawing inspiration from an imagined history.
The details designed by Jung play a key part in this. The animal figures hewn deep in the soapstone and granite – partly comic, partly wild – the painted ornamentation and the decorative motifs on pillars and vaults, together with the spatial design, form a seamless total work of art in which no detail can be separated from the others.
The semi-circular extension at the back of the hall and Wilho Sjöström’s Helsinki-themed fresco are from 1916. When the extension was built, a magnificent stained-glass piece by Valter Jung featuring peacocks and entitled Money Tree was put into storage. It was later installed on the premises of the city treasury, which operated in the banking hall of Nylands Aktiebank, designed by Valter Jung and Emil Fabritius in 1912–1914, at Pohjoisesplanadi 15. Today, the treasury premises are a restaurant, and it remains an art nouveau interior well worth a visit.
Source: Art Nouveau in Helsinki – Architectural guide (Helsinki City Museum)