Hotel Vaakuna, Helsinki, Finland
Hotel Vaakuna, Helsinki, Finland

Client: Sokotel
Interior design: Fyra
Furnishings: Artek, Fredericia, Gebrüder Thonet Vienna, Gubi, L’Abbate, Normann Copenhagen, Poiat
Lighting: Astro, Flos, Gubi, Marset, Örsjö, Rubn, Santa&Cole, Tuote
Carpets: Koolmat Oy
Curtains: Kvadrat
Photo credits: Riikka Kantinkoski

Functionalist orthodoxy and romantic nostalgia: the former is given explicit expression in the rigor of the facades, and the latter is expressed in the sensual, luxuriant ornamental design of the interiors. Crossing the threshold of the Hotel Vaakuna is like delving into an atmosphere of yesteryear, being swept away by the magic of the best of Finnish design, the formal solutions that evoke solid harmony between nature and artifice. Simple materials like wood and metal, are given sensitive interpretation to meet needs for their use and gratify aesthetic pleasure in accordance with the modernist tradition.

Designed by architect Erkki Huttunen in the center of Helsinki, the Sokos building — whose five upper floors hold the hotel — was meant to be completed for the 1940 Olympics. But the war delayed it until 1952 as well as the opening ceremony.

Huttunen not only designed the functionalist modern architecture, he also contributed to the interior decor and furniture design, with Runar Engblom and Paavo Tynell, who at the time was one of Finland’s most sought-after lighting designers for public spaces. Today his lamps sell for record amounts at auctions.

Over the decades, the hotel has undergone several restorations, the last of which was by the local firm Fyra. As the building is partially protected, the work was completed in cooperation with the Helsinki City Museum. The aim of Fyra’s project was to update the hotel’s premises and visually unify the building’s different parts while preserving the 1950s atmosphere and the original design.

The lobby areas, rooms, corridors and the restaurant on the tenth floor were renovated; the doors and brass numbers were preserved and restored; over 200 armchairs were repaired, including the iconic high-backed lounge chairs designed by Runar Engblom in the 1940s, and Tynell’s ornamental brass lamps were highlighted. Some of these were designed specifically for the Vaakuna and made at the renowned industrial art company Oy Taito Ab, of which Tynell was then a co-founder.

New furnishings were chosen for the rooms and the restaurant to match the original furniture and lamps in their tones and soft lines. The restaurant on the tenth floor also includes many culturally and historically important pieces. In addition to Tynell’s beautiful chandeliers, the restaurant is decorated with white plaster peace doves by the artist Gunnar Finn, which have been replicated on the walls of some of the bedrooms and lobby areas.