After a short while one soon realises that Finnish urban housing is – with an exception of those lucky few living in the Helsinki city centre – kind of monotonous to say the least. It’s all about kerrostaloja, concrete blocks of flats, with obligatory complemented by a grey box-like supermarket and equally angular minimalistic daycare. Some of these buildings or their respective location are more bearable than others, yet the houses themselves are rarely aesthetically pleasing and almost unequivocally they lack, well, that special something too them, something worth photographing, something you would tell your friends about. They are functional and close to some kind of a park, but that’s pretty much it.
… but there are exceptions! One of them is the district of Käpylä, more specifically the part known as Puu-Käpylä – Wooden Käpylä. Walking (or sitting in the tram) along the Pohjolankatu avenue you will experience what I personally understand under Scandinavian architecture: an array of wooden houses from the 1920s, built along the idea of the garden suburb and creating great living conditions for city workers. The very same idea lay behind the Tapiola quarter in Espoo, but if I had to choose, Puu-Käpylä has so much more character… no wonder it made in to the top of the best residential quarters in Helsinki (= in Finland)!
I particularly recommend taking the tram 1/1A towards Pohjolanaukio, get off at Metsolantie or Käpylänaukio and walk down Pohjolankatu toward Pohjolanaukio. Look left, look right, sink in between the wooden houses now and again…
Special recommendation: take the walk in autumn. Those autumn colours fit Käpylä so well…
… at Pohjolanaukio you will find Park Hotel, a hotel with a pretty decent weekday menu restaurant and famous for being the shooting location of the Hyvät herrat show. I have never heard of it but apparently ALL Finns over 20 years of age or something know this. So you’d better remember this as well.
From Pohjolanaukio continue along the Käpylänkuja – why? Well, because you will get to Helsinki home of Karelian culture, the Karjalantalo. The inauguration of the statue of The evacuated mother took place in June 2015 and not many Helsinki citizens know about it yet, so check it out, and check out the events taking place at the house, too! (wink wink, yeah, I work there.) If you think you like Finnish food, try the week-day lunch at the Karelia restaurant for extra pork, cabbage and other food so typical for Karelia. And if you prefer food with more creativity, uhm, head back to the Park Hotel.
While in Käpylä you can extend the walk to the Olympic village. Built in 1950s (duh), these serve a “more bearable” example of the kerrostalo architecture: simple, functionalist, with some kind of atmosphere, symmetry and lightness, well, I could live there too.
Want more of wooden urban architecture? Check out Puu-Vallila in Helsinki, or take a short trip to Porvoo!