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The campus library in Meilahti is now a meeting place for health and life science students, researchers and start-ups

The University of Helsinki and the Helsinki University Hospital HUS ached for a new space concept to cater to the needs of various health and life science community members. This is how Terkko Health Hub was born: it’s an innovation and education centre to promote research and business in the fields of medicine, healthtech and life sciences under one roof with the medical faculty library. For this purpose Gullstén-Inkinen designed interior solutions that support the concept of co-working.

How can a library better serve its customers in the digital world?

This is what librarians around the world are working on. Public, university and national libraries are all facing the same challenge: printed materials are being reduced, digital collections expand, and the ways in which we use information are changing. These changes challenge libraries to renew their service concepts.

The conceptual development of the Meilahti campus library in Helsinki started a couple of years ago as the library’s print collections faced reductions. Located in the heart of Helsinki’s medical campus, the library provides for the medical students, faculty staff, researchers, doctors, the HUS hospital staff, healthcare professionals as well as many companies in the field. It encompasses the largest collection in health and life sciences in Finland. Previously known as the Central Library of Health Sciences, the building was completed in the corner of Haartmaninkatu and Tukholmankatu in 1998.

“This library has a central location on campus, and it functions as a kind of gate when entering the hospital area,” says architect Outi Saario representing the University of Helsinki property management department.

However, the use of the library had changed since its designed purpose in the 1990s. The materials and their uses have changed.

“Medical information has become digital. Medical science develops in leaps and bounds, and there is a flow of new information available. For the library’s operations, this means that printed collections require less space than before. The users of the library find digital collections available for doctors and researchers outside the library, too. It is not necessary to physically enter the library building,” Saario notes.

The library turned out to occupy two floors in a great location for just archiving written materials. The Medical Faculty of the University of Helsinki and HUS, together with the library, wanted to renew the ways in which the premises were used. They wanted to bring in new customers and life.

In practice, the renovation started after the library reduced its collections to free the entire ground floor for other use.

Co-working benchmarking in the USA

The representatives of the University of Helsinki went to the US to find examples of their desired concept. They visited several different co-working spaces in Boston. They also visited MIT and different centres that support science as a business.

“The visits convinced us of the possibility to provide co-working space in the library which would serve both the University departments, students and HUS as well as the health science companies. Architect Jarmo Suominen designed the basic idea for the concept,” Saario says.

A shared space for various user groups

This was the setting for Gullstén-Inkinen to design premises that support co-working. The idea was to place all of the collections, the customer service desks and the reading rooms for the students on the second floor of the building. The new service concept, Terkko Health Hub, was to take place on the ground floor.

Another baseline was to utilize the existing furniture of the library and the University. Outi Saario was happy with Gullstén-Inkinen’s initial design ideas.

“Gullstén-Inkinen contributed additional value to our brainstorming and helped solve the co-working space challenge. We had no practical guideline about its implementation to begin with, but they were able to apply Jarmo Suominen’s basic idea and decide what was needed here. They were also able to utilize the existing furniture in a very refreshing manner.”

Encounters and events

The renovation took place in the spring of 2017. Now there is space for health and life sciences and medical start-ups in the old office wing of the library.

There’s an open space that includes several working areas aka “Neighbourhoods” separated with furniture and carpeting. The neighbourhoods can be booked in advance.

It was not possible to build floor-to-ceiling partition walls, and therefore a lighter solution was needed. Extra bookshelves from the library now function as partition elements. The shelves have been filled with extra books from the library, and the books organized according to their appearance and colour. The shelves are backed with acoustic panels made of peat as well as note boards. The shelves also work as wardrobe space for the customers using the neighbourhoods.

In addition, it was important to provide open-access areas to support exchange of ideas, networking and events. There is a large lounge-type space, an event square, a cafe area and a green turf with hammocks for this purpose.

Outi Saario thinks the resulting hub works really well. Library users have found their way to the new facilities, and there’s a healthy demand for the business premises. The lounge is nearly always full of people, and the hammocks are popular as seats.

Feedback is constantly being gathered from the users of the renewed library. The idea is for all age groups to be able to use the premises as they like for their own purposes.

“I believe the co-working trend will continue. We are closely following how this space is being used, and we’ll develop the concept further together with the users and Gullstén-Inkinen’s designers. We’re really happy with Gullstén-Inkinen’s passion towards this project and the new ideas they’ve contributed,” Saario says.

“The new ways of using libraries are changing the services and concepts everywhere. There’s also discussion about the changing soundscape of libraries. At the moment, libraries struggle to provide both silent space and human encounters and events. Acoustic solutions play an important role in making the concept work. Next year, we’re particularly keen to see what kind of a meeting place the new Helsinki Central Library will become,” Saario notes.

Text: Minna Helkiö
Photos: Aukusti Heinonen

Gullstén-Inkinen Design & Architecture is the largest design agency in the Nordic countries specializing in architectural and interior design and real estate renovation. Our award-winning agency provides individualized, cost-efficient and sustainable design solutions for offices, hotels, restaurants, public spaces and real estate renovation projects.

We also offer top-quality workplace development services for businesses and organizations looking to foster a better work culture, improve internal communications or boost overall employee productivity.

Read more about our projects.

Manor estate revamped in the spirit of the 1950s

Architects Gullstén-Inkinen helped revamp a traditional manor estate owned by a Finnish company in Espoo, Finland. Gullstén-Inkinen was responsible for the architectural and interior design of the property. The main house, completed in the end of 1920s and its sauna cabins received a new lighter, more cozy look. The objective of the main building’s interior design was to create a mood reminiscent of a lovely summer day in 1952, the year when the Olympic Games were held in Helsinki.

There’s a beautiful sun room that welcomes visitors to the main house built in the end of 1920s. Large windows facing three directions create an extremely well-lit entrance. Stepping further, the visitor finds a view to the dining room located in a sun room on the opposite side of the house. This room also features tall windows facing three directions that let plenty of sunlight into the building.

Latest renovation emphasizes the luminosity and lightness of the manor. This particular project included the main house of the estate. A few years earlier, the two log-cabin saunas by the lake went through complete renovation.

Now the manor owned by a Finnish company is again ready to receive guests, to house meetings and dinners and to provide traditional bathing in the sauna cabins.

A well-lit entrance welcomes the visitor.
The entrance provides a view to the dining room. The manor houses an art collection now on display.
The appearance of the dining room that seats 16 persons was lightened and streamlined. Y chairs replace the old black leather chairs. A display cabinet presents the company’s monogrammed crystalware from decades ago.

Back to the days of the Olympic Games

Architects Gullstén-Inkinen were responsible for the architectural and interior design as well as the project management and procurements of the renovation. Thirty years had passed since the previous renovation of the manor, and its interior was wearing off. Entertaining functionality was another dimension that needed improvement.

“It was the client’s wish to make the manor a cozy place to stay. Although we’re talking about a space for executive entertainment, the house itself is kindly and modestly sizes. Coziness fits the frame of the house,” says Hanna Gullstén.

What period should the interior design style represent?

“We pondered about this for a long while. The manor carries a long history, and there were several layers to choose from. We liked the idea of a bourgeois home in the days of the Olympic Games in 1952. All items have been selected to reflect the spirit of that time. Because of the tight schedule, we didn’t have time to look for antique furniture, so the mood was created with new furniture representing the period. We preferred Finnish and Nordic products. The original pieces of furniture in the house were repaired, and the art and tableware available were put on display,” Hanna Gullstén explains.

The colouring matches the fireplace and the art collection

The hall downstairs functions as a salon for after-dinner coffee. It includes an original fireplace that provided a base for the colour selections. The manor’s art collection also helped pick the right colours.

“There was plenty of beautiful art available in the manor. The client was pleased that we were able to place all of it in the interior. For example, a work that features a keyboard was placed on top of the piano in the hall. We chose many of the textiles based on the tones of the artwork,” says Hanna Gullstén.

The colours in the hall were matched with the fireplace, the art and the existing furniture. An original sofa set was restored and upholstered. A table from the 1930s includes several secret drawers and bottle-holders.
The idea was to make the house look like it was recently inhabited. Somebody has “forgotten” their spectacles on a stack of books.
A Berber rug in the style of Villa Mairea creates consistency in the large space.
Eliel Saarinen’s Cranbrook dining set dominates the upstairs of the manor. The colours of the original tiled stove inspired the tones of the walls and the armchairs. Old objects from the company’s collections have been placed on Artek’s shelves.
The meeting room for eight upstairs was styled modern in terms of appearance and artwork selection.
The terrace above the dining room provides a great view towards the lake.

Women and men’s sauna cabins have been restored from top to bottom

The manor includes two log-cabin saunas by the lake. One of them was renovated in the spring of 2010 and the other in 2017.

“The renovation project of the manor estate started in 2010, and its first part was the so called ladies’ sauna. The objective was to create a stylish yet cozy sauna space for entertaining guests. We wanted to create a modern, well-lit and feminine space,” Hanna Gullstén says.

The original look of the building including the roof and cladding remained nearly the same, but the building frame and interiors were almost completely renewed. During the renovation, it was observed that the sauna had been built in several phases and that its oldest part used to be a smoke sauna.

The idea was to install light wood paneling in the dressing room.

The men’s sauna, which represented 1950s architecture, was lastly renovated including a major structural update to improve its functionality.

“The only entrance to the sauna was on the lake side. We wanted an entrance on the other side, too. The solution was to remove a technical facility that was no longer needed. An extra door was cut into the log wall to add a kitchen and a toilet. The change enabled a new route to enter the sauna from the main house.”

The foundation of the men’s sauna was restored, and the waste water and heating systems were modernized. An old grass roof was completely rebuilt, and a major renewal took place indoors. The logs in the walls were mainly in a good condition, so they were just cleaned.

There is no separate dressing room in this sauna but a combined sitting and dressing room. A long sofa was designed and placed against two of the walls. The walls include wooden hooks to hang clothes. “The hooks are fun elements on the wall and remain neutral when no clothes are hanging.”

The steam room has a fine old wood-burning sauna stove, and the benches were renewed with the help of highly skilled carpenters.

Bringing modern technology into an old building in style was a special challenge. The electricity lines are embedded under wide furring strips around the rooms and the doors. The space is now suitable also for having meetings.

An extra door was cut into the log wall to add a kitchen and a toilet.


Text: Minna Helkiö
Photos: Aukusti Heinonen

Gullstén-Inkinen Design & Architecture is the largest design agency in the Nordic countries specializing in architectural and interior design and real estate renovation. Our award-winning agency provides individualized, cost-efficient and sustainable design solutions for offices, hotels, restaurants, public spaces and real estate renovation projects.

We also offer top-quality workplace development services for businesses and organizations looking to foster a better work culture, improve internal communications or boost overall employee productivity.

Read more about our projects.

Gullstén-inkinen designed activity-based offices for Kela in Malmi, Ylöjärvi and Joensuu

Interior architects Gullstén & Inkinen carried out the head design, architectural design and interior design of the Malmi, Ylöjärvi and Joensuu office renovations for the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (KELA). The purpose of the projects was to create more work space for the growing personnel of Kela and to support flexibility and increase comfort at work. An increasing number of the Kela personnel now work in activity-based offices.

Turquoise and orange. Plenty of transparency. The feeling of quality. New and tidy.

This is how the revamped Kela offices in Malmi appear.

In addition to the visual appearance, the premises encompass completely new functionality. Previously about twenty people worked in individual rooms on the third floor of the Malmi offices; now after the renovation the whole floor is an activity-based office that includes 56 work stations. The employees sit in groups of 8 to 12 persons in an open office. They share the meeting rooms, withdrawal booths and a large working lounge that also serves as a cafe, break room and team meeting room.

Team manager Eva Forsell considers the renovation a success. She says that moving over into activity-based offices has increased interaction among the staff and created a sense of communality.

“We now all sit together in the new offices. There’s always a colleague nearby to ask for advice. Our work is often quite lonely, but in a space like this, we never feel alone. Another positive trait is that people learn to know each other in a completely different way. The working community becomes more tight-knit.”

The new premises for Kela were completed in the end of 2016.

The primary purpose of the renovation was to create more working space. In the beginning of 2017, the national income support services were transferred from the municipalities to be handled by Kela, and this brought many new people to work in Malmi as well as many other Kela offices.

Flexibility at work impacts the need for space

The Kela service network consists of 180 offices around Finland. They are cared for by Kela’s property services.

“We aim to provide the Kela personnel with quality offices that are comfortable and well proportioned. The ways of working are changing, and the premises must conform to that change,” says architect Pentti Nurminen from Kela’s property services.

“The income support services and other regulatory changes impact the volume of Kela personnel and thereby the space needed. Overall, working at Kela has become more flexible. Many tasks are not tied to a certain place anymore. Work can be done at home or in another office. All this impacts how much space is needed.”

According to Nurminen the renovation requirements are always considered per location. The general condition of the premises adds pressure to the process.

“Kela owns many properties built in the 1980s and 1990s. They typically house building services technology that requires updating. Many locations include solutions that are now out-of-date and can be utilized for a new purpose. For example, paper documents require much less storage space than before. Some old properties still have ‘letter lifts’ between the floors. They haven’t been in use for a long time,” Nurminen notes.

Users engaged in the design

Gullstén-Inkinen was in charge of the spatial design of the Kela offices in Malmi, Ylöjärvi and Joensuu. All three are now activity-based offices.

The design was carried out in two phases. In the first phase consisted of testing, the Gullstén-Inkinen design team providing a proposal for the future layout, including the number of work stations and supporting units. In the implementation phase, they chose the materials and designed the visual appearance. User needs were surveyed with a questionnaire about the work environment and by active communications and staff engagement.

Team manager Eva Forsell of the Malmi offices congratulates Gullstén-Inkinen for this.

“Moving from separate rooms to an activity-based office has been a huge change. It’s not only about the premises but a change in our working culture. We appreciate being included in the design and influencing matters that concern our work. We felt that they really listened to us,” she says.

“Working with the Gullstén-Inkinen designers was fluent. They were active, brought up valuable points and listened to us. We all worked towards a common goal: having everything ready by 15 November 2016. And we succeeded in this,” confirms Forsell.

Text: Minna Helkiö
Photos: Sami Saastamoinen

Gullstén-Inkinen Design & Architecture is the largest design agency in the Nordic countries specializing in architectural and interior design and real estate renovation. Our award-winning agency provides individualized, cost-efficient and sustainable design solutions for offices, hotels, restaurants, public spaces and real estate renovation projects.

We also offer top-quality workplace development services for businesses and organizations looking to foster a better work culture, improve internal communications or boost overall employee productivity.

Read more about our projects.

SOL was the first Finnish company to move into an activity-based office during the economic slump of the 1990s

It was year 1992. Finland was suffering from a severe economic downturn. Recently founded SOL Group believed in flat organization and created completely new kind of a working environment to support it. People were free to choose their work stations. They kept their personal items in red bags. The use of paper was minimized. No secretaries were hired, and the CEO sometimes answered calls at the switchboard. SOL was years ahead of its time.

Step into our solar system, it says on their yellow door.

We’re entering SOL City, in other words the head office of the SOL Group on Vanha Talvitie in the Sörnäinen district of Helsinki.

Having opened the door, we see a huge open space full of colors, details and surprises. Eyes start to wonder. The milieu invites us to step further. On the way from the reception to the wardrobe, we see a yellow phone booth, a forum with a fountain, a genuine English mailbox and several naive sculptures monitoring the life in SOL City. Bright yellow and red tones captivate our minds.

One cannot but smile at the view.

“This is exactly what we’re after. Smiles, good spirits, joy and positivity. That’s what SOL’s all about,” says Chairwoman of the Board at SOL Palvelut Oy, Anu Eronen.

The name of the company, Sol, is the Latin word for the sun. This huge star is present in the company logo, visual identity, workwear and everywhere in the premises. The brand colors, red and yellow, also refer to the sun.

Sunshine is embedded in people’s attitudes, too. The sun shines through the hardest of days.

Finland was going through a depression when the SOL group was founded in 1992. Finnish companies were struggling. They were saving on everything possible. Including the cleaning.

In order to succeed, a start-up company needed to have courage and introduce alternative ways of working. Led by Liisa Joronen, SOL decided to increase the value of cleaning work. The company believed in equality and co-creation. They decided to invest in a unique brand right from the start. The name was chosen based on the personnel’s proposals, and the sunny image created around it helped the company to stand out among the competition.

A completely new kind of working environment

An old photography studio was found to function as the head office of the new company. The walls were black, but the high ceilings had potential. Jari Inkinen and Hanna Gullstén were invited to design the premises.

“When we went to see the studio, it was a bit daunting to realize that we only had a few windows and completely black walls to cope with. Now, afterwards, I can say we did well,” Jari Inkinen reflects.

The baseline for the spatial design was a new way of looking at a work place. Why must an office look like an office?

“Why must we have rooms, walls or even dividers between people? Why must we use office furniture? We wanted to create something between work and home. A place with a homey atmosphere that welcomes people and provides enjoyment,” Anu Eronen says.

“The premises also needed to support the flat organization. We wanted everyone to be able to talk with everyone. In an open space, there should be many large tables around which to gather.”

All of the personnel were engaged in the design.

“We came together to brainstorm an optimal working environment and what could be included. Everybody’s proposals were written on a flip chart. Somebody suggested a fountain, so that’s what we had,” Eronen says.

Personal items from cabinets to bags

For Gullstén-Inkinen, the SOL project was like winning the lottery.

“We were able to develop a completely new type of working environment,” Jari Inkinen says. “Flexible concepts are common these days, but in 1992, this approach was unheard of.

“First of all we investigated the physical need for space in different tasks. Today, we speak of recognizing work profiles within the development of a work environment. Each profile needs a specific environment. In that time, we used traditional need-based surveys to ask how much storage people needed.”

Based on the result of the survey, no space was left for people in SOL’s premises, only storage.

This sparked the idea of the new concept. People could keep their items in bags.

“With Anu and Liisa, we questioned how much stuff people really need. We checked what materials were kept in the cabinets and laid them on the table according to different tasks. Each profile gained a pile of material, a few folders in practice. We realized it was not necessary to keep them in a cabinet. I had a Marimekko bag that I’d carried around since high school. We came up with the idea to put the material in a bag like that!” Jari Inkinen recalls.

Jari designed a new version of the bag with pockets and other necessary details. Marimekko was asked to manufacture the bags for SOL. They did indeed do so, and since the 1990s, each SOL employee receives a red Marimekko bag to store their work items.

This invention meant that nobody – not even the executives – needed to have their own dedicated desk. At the end of the day, everybody would fill their bags and bring them to the bag station, leaving the desk empty and available for someone else to occupy.

This unique spatial concept also supported SOL’s pioneering role regarding the paperless office. The company seeked to abolish unnecessary paperwork already in the 1990s.

What sparked the idea of calling the place SOL City?

“We thought that a tight working community is like a village or a small city. It includes separate spaces for various functions like working, eating and meeting people. We imagined a city with streets, banks and post offices. When the property was expanded in 1995, we designed a central square and wide Spanish stairs. In the middle of the square, we created a solid sun-themed tiled area to support the brand,” Jari Inkinen explains.

Since then, the central square has functioned as a meeting area for the various events organized by the company.

“These days, nearly every public building and office wants to offer the same kind of staircase experience as we designed then,” Inkinen notes.

The concept remains

Anu Eronen appreciates the SOL City concept. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” she says. “Thanks to Jari and Hanna’s functional and colorful ideas, we managed to create a unique working environment that still serves our company culture today.”

According to office user survey by Taloustutkimus Oy in 2016, the SOL premises match the company values and function well.

“Last year, the company Into Concept founded by Hanna and Jari delivered new and innovative desks and chairs for us in order to improve ergonomics. Otherwise the spatial concept is the same.”

“We wanted adjustable tables to alternate between sitting and standing positions. However, the cabling was too visible around the tall tables. Jari met this challenge with a colorful “trouser desk” idea. It’s yet another example of solving problems in an fun way,” says Anu Eronen.

Stories and art

A tour in SOL City is like an inspiring walk around town. Each object involves a story. Many of them also carry personal importance, as employees have brought them to work from their homes or summer cottages. This creates an element of surprise. There’s a jukebox next to some Artek chairs. A genuine crystal chandelier is hanging from the black ceiling upstairs.

SOL City also houses one of the largest collections of naive art in Finland.

“Naive art is life-like, fun and humane. It supports our values and matches our premises perfectly,” Eronen says.

Art has been part of the SOL Group’s identity since the very beginning. The artworks come from many different artists.

In the kitchen, Jan-Erik Andersson’s “Crispbread Table” and “Peanut Benches” have been in daily use for more than twenty years. Jakke Haapanen’s surreal door paintings represent the latest purchases. On the back wall is a mosaic sun created by nine artists for a Fiskars art event. The graffiti by the entrance is a good example of how a restless wall with fire doors and file cabinets can be masked as part of artwork.

Believing in one’s own vision

What is Anu Eronen’s favorite place in SOL City?

“I like the open space because there I’m constantly aware of what’s going on. When I was the CEO, I used to sit at the switchboard and take calls. That was a great way of learning what’s going on. Another of my favorite places is the bridge that leads to the Playhouse upstairs. Looking at the space from above provides a different angle and helps proceed in a new manner.”

Eronen has always believed in her own vision and encourages others to do the same. She follows two guidelines: Do things boldly and differently. A basic concept is not good enough. Secondly, do things together with the personnel.

SOL’s operating environment built in the 1990s is a fabulous example of having the courage to do things differently.

“Nowadays this kind of a space is called an activity-based office,” Jari Inkinen says. “And nowadays half of the world wants to work in this kind of environment. In Finland and in the Nordic countries, many already do. But it’s likely that SOL has been operating in an activity-based office longer than any other company in the world.”

Text: Minna Helkiö
Photos: Gullstén-Inkinen and SOL

Gullstén-Inkinen Design & Architecture is the largest design agency in the Nordic countries specializing in architectural and interior design and real estate renovation. Our award-winning agency provides individualized, cost-efficient and sustainable design solutions for offices, hotels, restaurants, public spaces and real estate renovation projects.

We also offer top-quality workplace development services for businesses and organizations looking to foster a better work culture, improve internal communications or boost overall employee productivity.

Read more about our projects.

Renovation of Mikonkatu 9 proceeds to topping out

The renovation of a historically solemn property at Mikonkatu 9 in Helsinki has proceeded to the topping-out phase. To be completed in the end of autumn, this renovation provides the new building users with modern premises designed with respect for the original architecture of the functionalist building. Gullstén-Inkinen is the head designer and architectural designer in this project.

Mikonkatu 9 in 2014.

The robust red-brick property in the Kluuvi district of Helsinki boasts solemn functionalism. Designed by Jussi and Toivo Paatela and built in 1929 to function as the head office of Atlas Bank, the building is currently owned by insurance company Ilmarinen. Atlas Bank failed, however, and was united with an investment bank (Helsingin Osakepankki) already in the end of 1929. After this, the banking floor served for many years as a cinema called Bio Rea. Since 1994, the former banking floor has served as a restaurant.

Now the property is being completely renovated. The building services systems, interior structures, surface materials and furniture of this eight-storey building will be renewed. Its offices will become modern, flexible premises for versatile use.

The need for renovation is based on repair deficit.

“Technically, the building was at the end of its lifecycle. In order to function as a modern office building, its twenty-year-old technology did not produce the features that building users expect,” says Ville Laurila, leasing manager at Ilmarinen.

A listed functionalist building

The building is listed for its outer shell as well as interiors. Its zoning status is SR-1, which means that the building or its structures cannot be demolished or changed so that their cultural, historical or architectural value is reduced. All renovations must be negotiated with the museum authorities.

Head designer of the project, architect (SAFA) and interior architect (SIO), Jari Inkinen, is responsible for considering the protection of these values during the renovation.

“Although the upper floor offices will be completely modern and open, some of the street-level premises will be restored to their original aspect. In cooperation with the specialists of the Helsinki City Museum, we’ve found design and implementation solutions that meet the objectives of all project parties,” Inkinen says.

The building permit application prepared by Gullstén-Inkinen was submitted in January 2017. The work started in the summer of 2017.

Future operations are based on interaction

The basis of the renovation is to create premises that allow flexible use of space.

“Regarding building services systems, we’re aiming at solutions that allow flexible use of space in both short and long term,” Ville Laurila says. “We wanted to design the building’s structure so that the premises on the second floor and above can be flexibly transformed to meet the needs of companies of various sizes and lifecycles. A wide specification like this obviously adds an angle to the designer’s work.”

Flexibility in the use of space is one of the business prerequisites of the future building operator. They offer coworking space and base their business on strong interaction among the tenants.

“With Jari Inkinen, we went to London to visit similar projects. We wanted to find out how the premises must function in order to create human interaction and boost encounters as effectively as possible,” Laurila explains. “The property at Mikonkatu 9 fits this type of concept really well. Its building frame is of optimal depth. The two stairways and the third to be built will increase the potential to divide the building and move between and access the floors.”

According to Laurila, Gullstén-Inkinen has succeeded as the head designer of this demanding project. The new building operator is also happy with their future premises. Laurila particularly appreciates Gullstén-Inkinen’s innovative approach and enthusiasm about the project.

“Jari Inkinen and his team are passionate about this project and really believe in it as well as the business of the future building operator. This can be seen in the design solutions as well as the zeal to lead the project forward.”

The project has proceeded in schedule without any major obstacles.

The topping-out ceremony took place 17 May 2018. Catering for the occasion was provided by the chefs of the restaurant section to be located on the ground floor of the building. The property is about to house another restaurant dedicated to the building users.

The premises are to be handed over to the tenants in the end of autumn 2018.

The property is located on the Mikonkatu street in the centre of Helsinki next to Ateneum, the Finnish national gallery.

Text: Minna Helkiö
Photos: Ilmarinen

Read more in Finnish:
Helsingin Sanomat: Atlas-pankki rakensi talon 1920-luvulla ja meni pian konkurssiin – nyt Planet Hollywoodistakin tuttuun Mikonkadun taloon tulee toimistoja


Gullstén-Inkinen Design & Architecture is the largest design agency in the Nordic countries specializing in architectural and interior design and real estate renovation. Our award-winning agency provides individualized, cost-efficient and sustainable design solutions for offices, hotels, restaurants, public spaces and real estate renovation projects.

We also offer top-quality workplace development services for businesses and organizations looking to foster a better work culture, improve internal communications or boost overall employee productivity.

Read more about our projects.

Renewed Nordea staff restaurant welcomes people to have lunch and work

Nordea Campus Food Market located in the Vallila district of Helsinki is one of the largest staff restaurants in Finland. Interior architects Gullstén & Inkinen took part in its revamping, the purpose of which was to improve the functionality of the large space and highlight the building’s industrial spirit. Now the restaurant offers areas for various type of work, meetings and spending time together.

Nordea’s staff restaurant Campus Food Market serves more than 2,000 lunches every day using four different meal concepts. It is one of the largest staff restaurants in Finland. The restaurant operator is ISS.

The space was renewed into an impressive and inspiring complex in November 2017. The basis of the revamping was to diversely utilize the space that stood empty outside the lunch hours.

Another principle was to highlight the building’s eventful history. The restaurant is situated in an old industrial building in the middle of the Nordea Campus block in Vallila. The building was originally completed in 1916 for the use of the Polsa & Merivaara metal bed factory. After this from early 1930s to mid 1980s, it functioned as an auto body shop for Suomen Autoteollisuus Oy and later Sisu-Auto.

Now the client wanted to revive the old industrial spirit of the restaurant. Old red-brick and concrete surfaces were revealed and carefully highlighted. Sustainability was considered in the procurement, and old renovated restaurant furniture as well as lighting fixtures recycled from Nordea’s earlier locations contributed to the atmosphere.

The third objective was to improve the functionality and acoustics of the large room. The restaurant encompasses approximately 1,400 square meters. It used to have one long service line for queueing food. The revamped complex includes two food lines and a separate street food area, Eat the Street, as well as a cafe with take-away options.

The space has been divided into areas that each have different atmosphere and soundscape. In addition, there are several environments for working, meeting people and spending time together. There are five areas that can be separated from the rest of the restaurant with curtains and glass walls and that can be used for catering events for small groups. Moreover, there are retreats for ad-hoc lunch meetings.

The purpose of the modern yet laid-back cafeteria is to attract the staff to use the space for work and fun also outside the lunch hours. Campus Food Market is literally right in the middle of the Nordea Campus, and thanks to the revamping, it is now the pulsing heart of the area.

Photos: Timo Pyykönen

Activity-based office brought Hartela people together

Moving from traditional offices to an activity-based office made Hartela personnel improve their interaction and diversify their ways of working. A living-room-like lounge is now the heart of their operations and a perfect setting for spontaneous encounters. Gullsten-Inkinen took part in the spatial design and development of the entire property since the beginning of the project.

All premises on one floor. A comfortable lounge in the middle of the premises.

The spatial solution for the brand-new Hartela HQ has created a significant change in the company’s working culture.

At the turn of the year, Hartela-yhtiöt Oy and Hartela Etelä-Suomi Oy moved in to the company’s property development in Ilmala, Helsinki. Transferring into a shared address allowed the Group to move on from traditional offices to an activity-based office.

The company abandoned separate office rooms. All of the staff is now placed in an open office. Some have their own permanent desks while others use varying desks in a mobile area. In addition, the premises include project rooms and retreats, from which people can choose a space that best suit their current task.

Another major change is that all 70 employees now work on one single floor instead of several separated sections. This is possible thanks to the exceptionally large floor area in the new property.

The advantages of the change are obvious.

“We have brought people together,” says Hartela’s sales director in Southern Finland Anniina Saari. “We used to sit on several floors with our own coffee rooms, but now we all share one coffee machine on one single floor. The change is apparent in how we feel. People face each other in a completely new manner. We talk much more among the different units. Information exchange is better.”

A boost to spontaneous brainstorming

The lounge by the entrance is the new heart of the offices. It’s a cafe and, most of all, a meeting place.

There’s a constant buzz at the coffee machine. There’s an island with a buffet of fresh fruit and newspapers. A wide set of stairs provides an easy occasion to sit down and work or just exchange ideas. Soft acoustics. The floor-to-ceiling windows let natural light flood in and provide a generous view to the flow of traffic on busy Hakamäentie. The Ilmala train station is just beneath the building.

Anniina Saari says the lounge enables managing many tasks spontaneously and informally.

“It’s easy to engage in a conversation while getting some coffee. You’ll get to know people, and it’s easier to talk about work, too. There’s no trouble asking a colleague about an issue, suggesting a cup of coffee and discussing the matter right on. This reduces the amount of internal emailing in the company.”

Strategically meaningful encounters

Hartela started to develop the building a couple of years ago. The main operator was going to be the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY. Hartela decided to place its own HQ in the property, too, to showcase its modern office building skills and expertise.

Gullstén-Inkinen took part in the spatial design and development of the entire property since the beginning of the project.

“Large floor area was a baseline during the design of the building,” says Jari Inkinen. “The objective was to create a unified, consistent area as large as possible to include the whole organization on one floor.” Typically an organization of 300 people is placed on up to six floors. Each unit exists on their own level, and there are few natural internal encounters. In this building, it was possible to place the 310 HSY employees on just two floors of offices.”

The encounters, or the lack of them, carry major strategic importance.

“When people are able to face each other more, they learn to know each other better and are able to build trust. This’ll produce new ideas that can lead to commercially interesting endeavors,” Inkinen explains.

Like a second home

Before the move, the Hartela people received a “user manual” of the new premises. It’s a comic book-type guideline material produced by the HR and communications departments titled “Welcome to Work Together”.

“The guideline presents in a fun way the rules of the new offices and our desired work culture. Whether it needs to be quiet in an open office or if people are allowed to talk, to speak on the phone etc. After all, the premises just form a platform for operations. We must together set the rules on how to use the premises,” Anniina Saari points out.

The new premises have been received very positively.

Stylish, yet homey. Feels comfortable. I get a good feeling every day I walk into the office. How do I get to work here?

In Saari’s view, the feedback given by the personnel and the visitors indicates that Hartela’s most important brand message has gotten across.

“We are a local Finnish construction company. We value home style and human scale. We are not a listed company, and we don’t want to operate in pompous halls where people feel small.”

Jari Inkinen thinks it’s wonderful that Hartela has brought home style to a new level.

Heikki Hartela’s brief to spatial design was simple: make the space feel like a second home. Although it’s a work place, it doesn’t have to be cold and corporate. That’s why there are proper windows, not a ribbon of glass. The milieu is small-scale and positively surprising – just like a home,” Inkinen explains.

Human scale is visible throughout the property. The ground floor lobby is fairly small, leading straight to a restaurant that forms an urban meeting place in the fast developing Ilmala area. It’s a convenient location to arrive by bike through the central park or by foot. Bike maintenance and large change room facilities are located downstairs. Part of the new company culture is electric car sharing among the Hartela and HSY staff.

But how far can spatial design reach to promote a work culture?

“Eventually the change is made by the people,” says Anniina Saari. “Premises as such are not omnipotent, and we cannot just hope that they’ll trigger a certain change. Then again, a wrong kind of space can prevent desired behavior. Expert spatial design can remove obstacles and create suitable conditions for working and acting together. Pleasant premises with a good atmosphere indicate that people are cared for.”

What management does is essential.

“There’s no use talking about activity-based offices if the executives keep their own large corner offices. In our place, the managers, including the CEO, all sit in the open office like everybody else – not to mention that they sit in the most mobile area,” Saari says.

Text: Minna Helkiö
Photos: Aukusti Heinonen and Hartela

Gullstén-Inkinen designed the HSY and Cinia premises and the entrance and restaurant sections of the new Ilmala station building.

Read more about HSY office opening.

HSY office opening in Ilmala

Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY’s office opening party took place 17 February 2018 in a new office complex built next to the water towers of the Ilmala district. It was a full house of guests, and the atmosphere was amazing. Entertainment included music by Niina Tapio and her orchestra and high quality drinking water from the tap served in fun recycled bottles.

Gullstén-Inkinen took part in this project managed by construction company Hartela since the get-go. In the beginning, we assisted the contractor and the architect to develop a unique layout, first for the whole building and then for HSY’s premises. The personnel sits on two floors only while the meeting rooms are located in the basement. GI’s strong expertise in creating a spatial plan showed once again how it can add value to a property. The right kind of spatial solution was key for HSY when deciding the location of its offices.

The new offices provide working space for 310 persons. People from three different locations moved into the new address. As part of the design, we created a HSY “market square” that can host various stakeholder events. During the opening, the market square was very much in use and found to include great acoustics. In order for the HSY organization to be able to use the premises in the best possible way, the work environment specialists in our design team helped them with change coaching, for example.

GI also designed the interiors of the HSY premises, one of the themes being a collection of maps of the metropolitan area. Recycling is an important part of the HSY operations, and therefore it is visually present in the premises.

GI also designed the Hartela and Cinia premises in the same building as well as the entrance and the restaurant and cafe section by the entrance.

Many thanks to all who participated in this project for great cooperation and to our clients for letting us participate.

It was fun 🙂

You can visit the property at Ilmalantori 1 to see which way the customer areas of the new generation offices are developing.

The interiors use many of the HSY furniture from their previous offices, including shelves and chairs.

The walls of the meeting rooms feature photographs of various milieus in the metropolitan area. One huge aerial picture has captured people’s hearts: every visitor wants to spot their house in the picture.

HSY’s project manager Tuija Räty (left) played a major role in the success of the project. She was relentless in leading the HSY people through the process of moving from traditional offices to a multi-purpose environment. On the right, GI design team members in party mood.

Jari Inkinen


European Architects Alliance visited GI’s office

The European Architects’ Alliance is a consortium of architectural and design firms with more than twenty offices across Europe such as Denmark, England, Belgium, Netherlands, Ireland, Turkey, Germany, Poland and Italy. The Alliance’s operation is based on cooperation between architectural and design offices in Europe. Cooperation benefits all parties and enables to provide architectural and design services for clients whose requirements transcend national boundaries. As a part of our cooperation, we had a pleasure to host a group of members visiting our office in our semiannual meeting that was organized week ago.

During their visit, our guests also got to know the beautiful Archipelago of Helsinki as we took them sailing.


Efficient office spaces, more satisfied employees, says Jari Inkinen in Operation Ilmala, Hartela publication 05/2017

Gullsten-Inkinen has been involved from the start in the real estate development and interior design of Ilmala that is located with good mortorway access and good transport links.

For successful Gullsten-Inkinen workplace projects, have a look at for instance Nordea HQ, or Sanoma Media HQ. Please also, read full article on Operaatio Ilmala publication.