The most impressive examples of Functionalism in Helsinki are associated with the construction for the Olympic Games. Helsinki had originally been selected to host the Summer Olympics in 1940, but because of World War II, it had to wait until 1952.

From the beginning, the Olympic Games were regarded as an international image campaign: Finland, still a young nation at the time, wanted to show the world that it was a modern country. To achieve this goal, the Olympic venues and other buildings were designed according to modern functionalist principles and the latest construction engineering was boldly applied in the construction work.

The crown jewel of Finland’s ‘Olympic functionalism’ is, evidently, the Olympic Stadium.

In 1933 the City of Helsinki held an open architectural competition for the stadium. The streamlined entry by the young architects Toivo Jäntti and Yrjö Lindegren was chosen as the winner. It is said that the entire description of their proposal was the laconic comment: “To be built of concrete.”

The first stage of the design was completed in 1938. The white, smoothly rendered walls, ribbon windows and roof-top terraces were pure functionalism, and the 72-metre-high tower, the highest landmark in Helsinki, rose above the stadium thanks to the latest advances in concrete construction techniques.

The stadium has since been expanded and renovated several times and this has partly reduced the original purity of its functionalist appearance. The current general appearance of the building dates to 1955 when office spaces were added and the exterior walls were clad with wood panelling. The tower, however, still rises proudly in its original form.

In 2003, K2S Architects won the design competition for the canopy covering the east stands. The aim of their design was that the new roof is as invisible as possible from the outside, respecting the original architecture of the stadium. The unexposed steel construction is optimised by the section form of a double sinus curve, and the underside surface consists of thin pine wood strips. The canopy was completed for the 2005 World Championships in athletics. Later extensions to the canopy, now covering the length of the stands, as well as refurbishment and a new multi-purpose hall, designed by K2S Architects, were completed in 2020.

Location

Paavo Nurmen tie 1, Helsinki
60.1863582, 24.9258241

Images

1940s, Olympic Stadium
1940s, Olympic Stadium (© MFA)
1940s, Olympic Stadium
1940s, Olympic Stadium (© MFA)
1940s, Olympic Stadium
1940s, Olympic Stadium (© Bonin von Volker / Helsinki City Museum)
Olympic Stadium
Olympic Stadium (© SKY-FOTO Möller / Helsinki City Museum )
Olympic Stadium
Olympic Stadium (© Sini Pennanen / Olympic Stadium )
The wooden panellings were added in 1955, Olympic Stadium
The wooden panellings were added in 1955, Olympic Stadium (© Sini Pennanen / Olympic Stadium )
East stand canopy from 2005 by K2S architects, Olympic Stadium
East stand canopy from 2005 by K2S architects, Olympic Stadium (© Niko Sirola / MFA)
Original canopy on left and the 2005 east side canopy by K2S Architects on right, Olympic Stadium
Original canopy on left and the 2005 east side canopy by K2S Architects on right, Olympic Stadium (© Niko Sirola / MFA)
After the 2020 refurbishment and extension of the canopy by K2S Architects, Olympic Stadium
After the 2020 refurbishment and extension of the canopy by K2S Architects, Olympic Stadium (© Wellu Hämäläinen)
After the 2020 refurbishment and extension of the canopy by K2S Architects, Olympic Stadium
After the 2020 refurbishment and extension of the canopy by K2S Architects, Olympic Stadium (© Wellu Hämäläinen)
Interior practice track after the 2020 refurbishment by K2S Architects, Olympic Stadium
Interior practice track after the 2020 refurbishment by K2S Architects, Olympic Stadium (© Wellu Hämäläinen)
Multipurpose sports hall in the 2020 extension by K2S Architects, Olympic Stadium
Multipurpose sports hall in the 2020 extension by K2S Architects, Olympic Stadium (© Tuomas Uusheimo)
Staircase in the 2020 extension by K2S Architects, Olympic Stadium
Staircase in the 2020 extension by K2S Architects, Olympic Stadium (© Tuomas Uusheimo)

Additional media

Yrjö Lindegren, Toivo Jäntti, competition entry
Yrjö Lindegren, Toivo Jäntti, competition entry "-but fighting well", 3rd prize, Olympic Stadium (© MFA)
Erkki Huttunen, Harry W. Schreck, competition entry
Erkki Huttunen, Harry W. Schreck, competition entry "Matti", purchase, Olympic Stadium (© MFA)
Aarne Hytönen, Risto-Veikko Luukkonen, competition entry
Aarne Hytönen, Risto-Veikko Luukkonen, competition entry "Fata morgana", 2nd prize, Olympic Stadium (© MFA)
Olympic Stadium
Olympic Stadium (© Museum of Finnish Architecture)

More projects by authors

Empty placeholder image
Bookmark

Pasilan Konepaja Housing

  • Helsinki
Empty placeholder image
Bookmark

Stanssi & Svingi Housing

  • Helsinki
Empty placeholder image
Bookmark

Kanta-Häme Regional Savings Bank

  • Hämeenlinna
Empty placeholder image
Bookmark

Paavo Nurmi Stadium

  • Turku
Empty placeholder image
Bookmark

Karviaistie Daycare Centre and School

  • Helsinki
Empty placeholder image
Bookmark

Tennis Palace

  • Helsinki
Empty placeholder image
Bookmark

Riihimäki Sports Park

  • Riihimäki
Empty placeholder image
Bookmark

Serpentine House

  • Helsinki
Empty placeholder image
Bookmark

BePOP

  • Pori
Empty placeholder image
Bookmark

Maunula Community Centre

  • Helsinki
Empty placeholder image
Bookmark

Kuhmo Town Library

  • Kuhmo
Empty placeholder image
Bookmark

Merenkulkijanranta Housing

  • Helsinki
Empty placeholder image
Bookmark

Aalto University Harald Herlin Learning Centre

  • Espoo
Empty placeholder image
Bookmark

Aalto University Undergraduate Centre

  • Espoo
Empty placeholder image
Bookmark

Paja, Kymenlaakso University of Applied Sciences Extension

  • Kouvola
Empty placeholder image
Bookmark

Kamppi Chapel

  • Helsinki
Empty placeholder image
Bookmark

Arctia Shipping Headquarters

  • Helsinki
Empty placeholder image
Bookmark

House of Culture

  • Helsinki

Nearby projects

Empty placeholder image
Bookmark

Töölö Sports Hall (former Expo Hall)

  • 300 m
Empty placeholder image
Bookmark

Winter Garden

  • 300 m
Empty placeholder image
Bookmark

Helsinki Swimming Stadium

  • 400 m