Strange and unrealized, part 2

Oy Savi
Oy Savi – Street view

This made a big impression on me although I know very little about this project. Published in 1919 by the title “Enfamiljsradhus & pensionat” this is a plan for apartment buildings and a boarding house that was never realized. It is a design by the office Borg-Siren-Åberg, that had been formed in the previous year by three young architects who came into fame a few years later when winning the competition for the Finnish parliament building in 1924. The company was short-lived and dissolved in 1925.

There is very little information on whose initiative this project “Oy Savi” was created, but it seems to be a private housing company or a group of investors.  The site is Rauhankatu in Turku, the block between Koulukatu and Jarruttajankatu, close to Port Arthur, a wooden tenement district that was built around 1900. The buildings on the site now are from later decades and nothing shows a trace from these earlier plans.

Site in Turku today
Site in Turku today

In the architecture one can sense a strong whiff of English Arts & Crafts-movement and even Danish examples popular at the time. But in terms of scale and program the proposal is quite extraordinary. There is nothing informal or small-scale about it: it is a huge hybrid mixing institutional housing and pronouncedly private one-family houses. The strong symmetry and stern materials accentuate a rare sense of urbanism that would have been quite striking in off-centre Turku at that time.

Oy Savi plans
Oy Savi, Turku. Plans

The massive middle block is the boarding house with an impressive series of common rooms on the ground floor and rooms in the upper floors, partly opening into a small courtyard. The boarding house for 200 guests was, according to the short introduction, added to make the whole more financially profitable. I don’t have proper knowledge of how common this type of living was at the time but since I do not know of any other examples of boarding houses, it seems hardly to have been as profitable as they thought. The row houses with private gardens are not designed for working class families but rather for a fancier upper class crowd judging from the number and type of rooms and floors (first floor again dominated by the “herrainhuone” for smoking cigars and entertaining male guests). Row houses were a novelty in 1919 and I know of only one Finnish predecessor: Ribbingshof in Kulosaari by Armas Lindgren from 1916. Eliel Saarinen was designing his famous row house in Hollantilaisentie, Munkkiniemi at that time and it was built in 1920. These early row houses were all intended for the wealthy middle and upper class – and must have been quite unfamiliar to the 1919 Turku crowd.

This is perhaps why the ideas of living introduced in this proposal were too radical. I would also suspect that the chosen site and mix  were wrong. The time was of course also strongly marked by political and financial instability, so the reason can be even simpler. I would have liked to see it, though. By 2014 it would have (after periods of neglect) of course been  transformed into lofts and service apartments for the elderly. The row house apartments would now be the most desired ones in Turku.

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