Soukka Gallery House

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The mid-seventies were a bleak time for Finnish architecture. At the same time more was built than ever before, mostly large suburbs to house people moving into cities. Professional conversation was filled with disenchantment, questions of responsibility and angry accusations. It was becoming quite clear that much of the new living environment was not very good. Engineer Eero Paloheimo actually said already in 1976 (ARK 1/77), that if more money had been spent on building quality and individual design of the new suburbs, people might like to live in them even 50 years from now.

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This apartment building though was one of the few examples deemed good enough for display in the architecture exhibition Suomi rakentaa 5 in 1976. Situated in Soukka, a southwestern suburb of Espoo, it was designed by Matti Vuorio in 1971 for Asuntosäätiö, a large housing company that had become a synonym for high quality when building Tapiola decades earlier. Built in a time when experimenting was not really part of Finnish architecture in general, this gallery house still managed to be a positive addition to its site and to existing housing architecture types. A bit of an oddity, that is.

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Soukka, a remote, mostly still rural part of Espoo was first called Lounaisrannikko “Southwest Coast” and even Alvar Aalto was invited to do some sketches for the new city in the 1960’s. But then the usual happened, and it was built as a pretty stereotypical suburb: almost identical high-rises scattered in foresty nature, roughly following the rocky landscape, a view to the sea from the upper floors. A small shopping centre, wide and empty streets.

Although nothing spectacular, Matti Vuorio managed to do a good job. The buildings are only four stories high and connect with the main street. The use of wood accentuates the smaller, friendlier scale. The smallest apartments on the ground floor have a small front garden. On the first floor there are spacious two-room apartments while big multilevel apartments upstairs have large roof terraces. The round stairs are the architectural highlight in the otherwise unassuming architecture. The well used gallery typology allows views into both directions and creates a house/apartment hybrid, probably much appreciated by the inhabitants. It seems to have remained a exception, because this type of gallery house is pretty much nonexistent today.

p.s. You can find the Strange Home Atlas now on Instagram as well!

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