Foto © Antti Laiho
Foto © Michael Perlmutter

Ahlstrom Salmisaari Headquarters

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Helsinki, Finnland
Ahlstrom Capital Oy

Toward the end of the 1930s, Ahlström Corporation had a high standard office and commercial building typical of the era built on Etelä-Esplanadi Street. Over the past 70 years, the Corporation, the town and the working life have undergone many changes – in structure and operations, and in terms of the possibilities offered by technology. The office block that Ahlström Capital has had built in the Ruoholahti area of Helsinki, on a property that became available when it was no longer needed for storing of coal, is correspondingly also a representative of the current time.

The working facilities are universal in nature and modifiable, with emphasis on openness and interaction. There are several different end-users in the building; Ahlström, Alko, BaseAn, Comptel and Fennovoima taking up most of the space. Common facilities include a restaurant and a conference centre. Exhibition facilities on the street level enliven the shore promenade. Parking space is provided behind these in the basement, as part of a public parking garage.

The floors wind round a central space that opens up to the market-square in the north. The strait and the views over Seurasaarenselkä Bay toward the Keilaniemi area are strongly present in the facilities. The building is built on a steel frame, with lightweight pre-cast steel units used in the solid sections of the external walls. The material is in the architectural expression most visible in the wind braces of the tall glass wall and in the lattices of the roof lights. The intermediate floors are hollow core slabs.

The exterior is dominated by redbrick, both in surfaces and as a tectonic structure in the fashion of old industrial buildings. The thermal load of the large window openings has been compensated with metal screens and special glazing. The site plan and the strict interpretation of it by Building Control Authorities made it necessary to implement the two top floors completely with glass surfaces. Had it been possible to treat the volumes and the surfaces more freely, more challenging possibilities of architectural expression could have been utilised.

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