Tram Driver Building

After a longish power nap on my blog it is time to update. Since being really up to date is what the Strange Home Atlas is all about here is some old and mostly obsolete stuff that I found inspiring in 2012:

Stadin Asuntomessut 2020, an exhibition about living in Helsinki (7 months ago or so), organized by the City Planning Department, created by Tuomas Toivonen and Nene Tsuboi from NOW for Architecture and Urbanism.

Apartment of Masako and Kosuke
Apartment of Masako and Kosuke

The edge of the city that is now disappearing in Ruoholahti and Jätkäsaari.

Former edge of the city, Messipojankuja in Jätkäsaari
Messipojankuja in Jätkäsaari

Old Housing fair sites tell stories simultaneously about the future and the past. My current favorite is Katariina in Turku , Housing Fair  site from 1988. More about that maybe later.

Turku Housing Fair(1988) today
Turku Housing Fair site today. Bryggmaninkatu.

Otso Kantokorpi wrote in the last issue of Arkkitehti Magazine (talking about his love for books): “I am quite convinced that heresy and eclecticism are important factors that feed creativity.” That is something that the Strange Home Atlas also firmly believes in and will continue to demonstrate. There are a lot of strange houses waiting to be shown in all their delightfulness, but first here is the tram (and bus) driver’s building in the central tram depot in Koskela, built in 1951, designed by Hugo Harmia and Woldemar Bäckman:

Tram driver's building
Tram driver’s building

The building is a curious sight among the huge depot buildings. The lower floors house storage spaces and offices and the driver’s canteen; on the upper floors there are 15 dwellings owned by the Helsinki City Transport Company. The city plan for the area allows living in it “only to personnel whose presence is indispensable for maintenance etc.” Fifteen dwellings seems a lot for that but maybe here lived the drivers who had early morning shifts.

Depot side and entrance stair
Depot side and entrance stair

It is a bit too small to be a landmark, a bit too pretty to be among the busses and still a bit too ordinary to be cool. Its architecture is a good example of modernism in its heyday in the 1950’s: rational but sensitive plans that open like a fan to the south and modest but expressive exteriors. Compared to the surrounding buildings that are part of the same plan the coziness of the scale seems a little strange. That strangeness invokes dangerously nostalgic thoughts about the nice, benevolent City Transport Company men who wanted to build a nice house for their workers as well…

Aerial photo of the depotCopyright Suomen Ilmakuva
Aerial photo of the depot
Copyright Suomen Ilmakuva

And now the house is in danger of disappearing. The depot is expanding and there is no economically efficient use for the building in the future. Apparently tram drivers don’t like to live there or the trams don’t need them during night-time any more. Let’s hope the drivers will stay.

HKL Kustaa Vaasan tie, 5th floor
HKL Kustaa Vaasan tie, 5th floor
Tram Drivers Building from the bus depot
Tram Drivers Building from the bus depot

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