Otava publishing house is one of the few buildings in the centre of Helsinki still owned by its builder and used for its original purpose. The façade of the national-romantic edifice is dominated by stone laid out in roughly hewn rectangular and intertwined blocks of varying sizes. On the narrow street, the scale of the house is quite pleasing, with the balconies, turrets and bay windows making for a sympathetic and mysterious impression.
As business boomed, the publishing house needed larger premises, and under the lead of Managing Director Alvar Renqvist, the decision was made to build a new home for the company. The design was entrusted to Lindahl and Thomé, young and innovative architects. The Otava house – the central part of the present complex – was completed in 1906. The decision to build an extension for the printing press and bindery was made soon after, and the neighbouring plot was acquired for that purpose. The extension was designed by the same architects and was completed in 1908. The heavy printing presses and binding machines called for concrete structures instead of a traditional brick frame. For additional facilities, Otava in 1918 purchased the plot at Uudenmaankatu 8 where a book storage extension was built based on designs by Lindahl, as well as another extension in the yard for two new printing and binding machines.
The complex also includes a corner house at Uudenmaankatu 14 designed by Herman Gesellius. Upon completion in 1911, it formed a pair with a residential building on the other side of Annankatu, designed by the same architect. The ‘Gesellius Gate’ disappeared from the streetscape in the 1960s when one half of it was replaced by the office building that stands there today.
Source: Art Nouveau in Helsinki – Architectural guide (Helsinki City Museum)