The City of Kouvola has grown around a railway junction station that served the wood-processing industry of South-East Finland. An architectural competition was held for the town hall in 1964, which was won by architects Bertel Saarnio and Juha Leiviskä. The building was constructed in 1966-67. In addition to facilities serving the city administration’s municipal council and board, as well as offices and meeting rooms, the building also houses a festival hall also used as a concert hall.
The spaces of the building wrap around a sheltered courtyard that is raised up from the street level. In Juha Leiviskä’s own words, it is “the heart and soul of the building”. The entry into the town hall and the circulation spaces are constituted from varying and diverse spatial sequences, beginning from the exterior forecourt and inner courtyard and continuing inside in the light-filled lobbies that overlook the inner courtyard. The majority of the entrances and halls of the building have been placed together on the courtyard side. The office wing, with its collonaded arcade, creates a feeling of spaciousness on the ground floor.
Three of the building’s facades comprise of rational grid composition. Rising in the northeast corner as a counterpoint to these is a clock tower, next to wide stairs leading up to the courtyard. The facades in the hall sections were originally clad in Carrara marble, but due to damage were replaced in 2001-2004 with light granite. The original oak window frames have been replaced with metal ones. Despite the changes, the essence of the building within the urban structure has been preserved. Kouvola City Hall still has a strong role as an administrative building, its timeless architecture bringing serenity to the surrounding fragmented cityscape.
Kouvola Town Hall is listed on the DOCOMOMO Finland registered selection of important architectural and environmental modernist sites.
Text: Sirkkaliisa Jetsonen / DOCOMOMO Finland