Spring sightseeing in Pikku-Huopalahti, a forgotten postmodern gem.
Pikku-Huopalahti was designed and built in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s making a distinct break from modernist architecture and its city planning traditions. It is still the only realized example on city scale that could be described as postmodern architecture. Architect Matti Visanti was responsible for much of the town planning in the Helsinki City Planning Department but he has never consented to the label “postmodern”. The intention was to create a “flourishing, rich and colorful” city that would bustle with life. This was of course realized within the standard guidelines of the building industry without any real revolution in building techniques and focused thus mostly on exterior decoration (which of course is not at all in contradiction with the ideas of postmodernism, where the idea of the “decorated shed” was formulated in the first place).
This little building at the edge of the park is definitely not one of the prominent buildings here, the most famous being the terraced tower house by architect Reijo Jallinoja. The town plan called for small villa-like, round buildings. Which means that this building ended up being round, impeccably round. Although this building faithfully follows the town plan guidelines it still seems to be a rather reluctant example of postmodernist architecture. There are no funny details, no allusions to any kind of children’s book fantasies that the building shape immediately suggests: Endless picnics in the garden, the round house watching over you like a maternal figure…
The one truly original thing – the round plan – looks like a square was squeezed into a round shape without much fun. The outer walls, although curved, are standard sandwich elements with a window in the middle. The entrance shyly plays around with classical pediment themes confusingly combined with metal masts and wires. An ironic nautical theme? All in all you get the feeling that the architect was playing along with the new rules but his heart’s not in it. Was he only forced to do it because of the overly eager town planner? And curiously this ends up being almost the only building among many “decorated sheds” that one might following Venturi call a “duck”. A more or less desperate duck.
Conclusion: Strange because round. And because it does not really want to be round at all.