Vuosaari on a hot August evening smells like metro exhaust air and barbecue. It is strange and familiar at the same time, all those white houses with identical glazed balconies lined along a perfect sand beach. Indian families, tourists and swarms of teenagers stroll along the beach boulevard. It just has to be the culmination point of building in the nordic welfare state: white, modern, healthy, democratic and a bit worn and monotonous.
The dream of an eternal summer is there in the Vuosaari air. It was there already in 1969 when they started to build this terraced building on Ulappasaarentie. It was then, and still is, quite striking in its distinctive shape, leaning backwards and maximizing sunlight on all west oriented balconies. The newspapers advertising the project then remarked that the houses look peculiar but are still quite efficient and practical.
The real catch here was of course the huge 20m2 balcony with inbuilt planters, a summer room almost, that was to combine the comforts of a courtyard and living in an apartment building. The huge terraces struck a chord with house buyers and the houses seem to enjoy a certain local popularity even though they are still considered peculiar – as pointed out by reliable sources like the forum meidanperhe.fi. The houses have their own web pages that proudly mention swimming pools and a well equipped gym.
The plans are also inventively conceived: every other floor has spacious three-room flats and on every other floor the position of the balcony is flipped and serves a smaller two-room flat. The only small flaw are the small studio flats that face only to the other side and have smaller balconies underneath the building mass. I was also rather hoping that this building would have duplex apartments on two stories, as that is how it looks from the outside. But now the windows looking at the balcony one floor below belong to the neighbor, which might be an annoyance. Although experimenting with complicated access systems and multiple-floor apartments was very popular at the time in other countries I do not know of any Finnish examples. I had thought that this might be one, because it was regarded “corbusian” by the press, but this building by architect Touko Neronen turned out to be less complicated than it looks, which is of course not a bad thing.
Strange? Yes. Nice? Just look here. Endless summer.