Tennis PalaceThe Auto and Tennis Building dates back to 1938. It was commissioned by the company Autopalatsi Oy as a utility for the 1940 Summer Olympics. The building was intended to house car service, parking and commercial facilities. At the design stage, four tennis courts and eight bowling alleys with adjoining service spaces were added on the second floor of the building. The architects of the building, Helge Lundström, had designed a straightforward two-storey, reinforced concrete column and beam frame based on an 8-10.5 x 10-metre grid, which would support two vaulted halls. The young civil engineer, Magnus Malmberg, acted as the structural engineer. The actual building, however, differed from Lundström’s original designs and his original vision of pure functionalism was not realised.

Owing to the Second World War, the Olympics were not held in Finland until 1952. After that, owners and occupants of the building, with the exception of tennis players, changed frequently. Subsequently, the building’s name, Tennispalatsi (Tennis Palace), became established. Over the years, Tennis Palace was under threat several times. Before the refurbishment 1997-1999, the building stood almost empty for a long time. In summer 1997, work was commenced to transform the building into a cultural and recreation complex. A Film Centre with fourteen screens and exhibition spaces for Helsinki City Art Museum was designed by architects Kari Raimoranta and Antti Luutonen.

The multipurpose building occupies a whole city block, and the spaces within the framework of the old building have been organised according to functional requirements. The fresh air tower required by modern air conditioning standards rise up to the eaves level of the neighbouring blocks, and the entrance recesses at the south end continue the arcades along the Salomonkatu street side. The major occupier’s large vertical signs on all sides mark the main entrances to the building.

Only four stairwells remain of the original interior. The basic configuration of the interior is defined by a few planes with strong character. The recessed glass wall, fifteen metres behind the Jaakonkatu street elevation, envelops the main lobby on two floors. Cinemas and exhibition spaces are hidden beyond glass walls. The exhibition facilities are divided into two different entities. The lower level includes galleries with fixed partitions. The structural columns have been encased within partitions which have allowed the construction of unbroken white surfaces in the old car parks.

The direct-finish surfaces of both old and new concrete structures, as well as modern technical installations, have been left exposed. Only a thin, almost translucent coat of paint is used to cover the old surfaces. Floors of the lobbies and exhibition spaces are finished with polished concrete. The stairs in the building may also be used as additional seating and are lined with warm-coloured oiled oak. The walls of the major cinemas are lined with dark, plum coloured fabric, while the smaller cinemas have a dark blue lining. Seating in all cinemas is bright red, and the pattern of the grey-coloured carpeting was specially designed for the building to liven up the single-coloured surfaces (textile artist Heli Tuori-Luutonen). The doors and railings of the cinemas are of oiled oak.

Source: Finnish Architectural Review 5/1999

Location

Salomonkatu 15, Helsinki
60.1692913, 24.9310569

Images

Aerial view from the northwest, Tennis Palace
Aerial view from the northwest, Tennis Palace (© Wikimedia Commons)
View from Fredrikinkatu, Tennis Palace
View from Fredrikinkatu, Tennis Palace (© Antti Luutonen / MFA)
Ground floor, Tennis Palace
Ground floor, Tennis Palace (© Voitto Niemelä / MFA)
Foyer on the second floor, Tennis Palace
Foyer on the second floor, Tennis Palace (© Voitto Niemelä / MFA)
Movie theatre, Tennis Palace
Movie theatre, Tennis Palace (© Voitto Niemelä / MFA)
Exhibition space on the second floor, Tennis Palace
Exhibition space on the second floor, Tennis Palace (© Voitto Niemelä / MFA)
Staircase between the exhibition spaces on the 1st and 2nd floor, Tennis Palace
Staircase between the exhibition spaces on the 1st and 2nd floor, Tennis Palace (© Voitto Niemelä / MFA)
Tennis Palace from the south in the 1960s, Tennis Palace
Tennis Palace from the south in the 1960s, Tennis Palace (© Constantin Grünberg / HKM)
Construction site in the 1990s, Tennis Palace
Construction site in the 1990s, Tennis Palace (© Antti Luutonen / MFA)
Section plan, Tennis Palace
Section plan, Tennis Palace (© Architects NRT)
Ground floor, Tennis Palace
Ground floor, Tennis Palace (© Architects NRT)
Second floor, Tennis Palace
Second floor, Tennis Palace (© Architects NRT)

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