Design agency KOKO3’s handprint is visible in the interior of Hanaholmen Cultural and Conference Center, built in the 1970s. They transformed the place into a fluid combination of the old and new.
HANAHOLMEN CULTURAL AND CONFERENCE CENTER lies a short distance away from the buzzing center of Helsinki, as if hidden among tall pine trees. The Cultural Center, designed by architect Veikko Malmio, was opened in 1975 and underwent a comprehensive renovation, which was completed in 2017. Design agency KOKO3 was responsible for the interior decoration. We met Jukka Halminen of KOKO3 to find out what the project, updating Hanaholmen to this millennium, involved as a whole.
Hi, Jukka! What was the assignment for you when the project started?
“Hanaholmen Cultural Center was in poor condition when the project started, and in need of thorough renovation. An upgrade to meet modern standards was necessary in the meeting and conference facilities. The hotel's corridors, the swimming pool, the restaurant hall and the entrance hall are protected by the Finnish Heritage Agency and in other respects, too, our task was to design the changes honoring the style of the house and the original interior design by Professor Yrjö Sotamaa.”
“Our task was to design the changes honoring the style of the house and the original interior design.”
What were the core themes of your design work?
“We wanted to focus on nature and art in the design of the alterations. The Cultural Center’s location is unique and Hanaholmen has a huge art collection, and our aim was to further emphasize both of these. We wanted to preserve the timeless charm of the place by making choices that would stand the test of time and link the modern and old in a natural way.
A quaint detail in the hotel rooms shows how we preserved the old: we used the old stone tabletops of the hotel rooms to make tops for the bedside tables. All that was needed to reuse the stone slabs was to cut them to measure.”
What did the project involve as a whole?
“The hotel comprises the hotel wing, extensive conference center activities, a restaurant and offices, which had grown and exceeded the capacity of the old facilities before the renovation began. A new floor was built on top of the hotel wing for the office premises, and the building maintenance technology was modernized in full. At the same time, the interior was updated, respecting the old design. Throughout the project, we worked in close cooperation with architects Kirsi Korhonen and Mika Penttinen.”
Hanaholmen is a Swedish-Finnish Cultural Center, whose aim is to promote and develop interaction and cooperation between Finland and Sweden. Is this reflected in the renovation?
“Hanaholmen’s history is fascinating! In the 1960s, Sweden decided to cancel Finland’s wartime debt and in return, the Finnish Government decided to set up Hanaholmen Cultural Center. It was absolutely clear to us that the hotel would be furnished with Finnish and Swedish furniture even after the renovation. Thanks to Gunvor Kronman, Hanaholmen’s Chief Executive Officer, cooperation began with Svenskt Tenn, a company very particular about their brand, and it was great that they opted for broad visibility in Hanaholmen.”
What is your favorite thing in Hanaholmen?
“I think the series of luminaires that we designed for Hanaholmen is fantastic. The idea for the luminaires was originally inspired by the bronze doors at the main entrance, designed by sculptor Kauko Räsänen. The lamp shades kind of reproduce the colorful round shapes of the doors. The colors are different, of course, but the idea of a free form is similar. The hotel's swimming pool area is also stunning, and the view from the pool, overlooking the sea between pine trees, is at its best on a foggy day.
Hanaholmen Cultural Center and the hotel, as epitomes of brutal concrete architecture, are ugly and beautiful at the same time, and the interior is fine and functional. One of the most wonderful things about the place, however, is the transition from the busy road to the peace and quiet of the island. It is like a transitional ritual that cuts of all stress and the hectic pace of everyday life and welcomes you to a completely different space.”
“Hanaholmen Cultural Center and the hotel, as epitomes of brutal concrete architecture, are ugly and beautiful at the same time, and the interior is fine and functional.”
Have you stayed in Hanaholmen’s hotel yourself?
“"Yes I have, as we celebrated the office summer party in Hanaholmen, bathed in the sauna, had dinner and spent a nice evening. The restaurant PLATS is top notch and I recommend a visit to Hanaholmen just because of that, even if you do not need to stay overnight. I would describe Hanaholmen as a boutique hotel close to the city center, but still far enough from it. It is an excellent choice for taking a break from the everyday routine.”
Text: Hanna-Katariina Mononen Photos: KOKO3, Robert Lindström