Design and architecture agency Kohina breathed new life into a historic building. The premises of the wind power company Ilmatar in Helsinki, Finland, have both a hint of history and a modern, dynamic vibe. Finnish Design Shop’s Contract Sales had the pleasure of contributing to the furnishing of this unique office.
HISTORY MEETS THE FUTURE in the lobby of wind power company Ilmatar at Unioninkatu in Helsinki. In the top-floor lobby of the nearly two-hundred-year-old building, visitors are greeted by a specially designed soundscape and an illuminated ceiling with an adjustable color temperature.
“Someone described the entrance as cinematic. That’s just what we were aiming at, that the lobby creates an atmosphere associated with Ilmatar. The first impression is always the most important,” says Kohina’s Creative Director Susanna Kallio, the architect who led the design of the space.
Ilmatar's facilities comprise the entire sixth floor, including a modern extension with a view over the courtyard. In addition, there is a penthouse in the attic overlooking Esplanadi Park. For Kohina, which provides both interior design and architectural expertise, this was a typical improvement and renovation project in which the property is redesigned for a new purpose.
“We are happy to take over the projects in full, because that way we can ensure that the technology and interior form a seamless whole,” says Kallio. Designing, for example, indirect lighting requires professional skill. “You usually have to put a lot of effort into things that will remain hidden from view.”
In Ilmatar’s premises, office technology does not draw attention from the walnut surfaces, urban view and carefully selected furniture. Kohina’s team solved the problem by designing a great deal of fixtures for the facilities. For instance, the radiator benches also contain the cooling equipment.
Kohina based the design on Ilmatar’s brand and story, which are reflected in the curved surfaces that imitate whirlwinds.
Kohina based the design on wind power company Ilmatar’s brand and story, which are reflected in the curved surfaces that imitate whirlwinds.
“It was very inspiring, a Finnish company and ecological, sustainable values provide a good basis for creating a concept. Then there was the old, unique property with a great story and architecture.”
In the course of its history, Wuorio House, completed for residential use in 1831, has undergone many changes, and architects from Herman Gesellius to Armas Lindgren have left their mark on it. The apartment features, among other things, a great deal of curved ceiling surfaces, due to which special attention had to be paid to acoustic design.
In an old property, the scale is also compact. Due to the relatively small amount of space, the space had to be used efficiently, which is why the furniture has many uses. For instance, the café facility allows forming groups, working alone or eating lunch while admiring the urban view.
The majority of the furniture came via Finnish Design Shop's Contract Sales, including a few products outside the normal selection. The classic style and natural colors bind the furniture together: brass and natural stone, oak and walnut. According to Kallio, the common denominator is quality, which does not, however, scream for attention. For example, the tables in the café are skillfully crafted by a carpenter.
Old furniture was utilized to the largest extent possible, and they were taken into account when dimensioning the spaces. For example, a number of Swan chairs designed by Arne Jacobsen were provided with a new cognac-colored leather upholstery. Ilmatar and Kohina share the same ecological values.
The classic style and natural colors bind the furniture together: brass and natural stone, oak and walnut.
“Architectural design can have a significant impact on energy consumption and materials. We use a lot of wood in interior design,” explains Kallio.
According to Kallio, the project was completely exceptional, and not least because one seldom gets the chance to design an interior for such an old, almost 200-year-old, valuable property in the center of Helsinki.
“It was amazing to get to design this kind of a penthouse going through the building, with views over the courtyard.
Kallio is particularly pleased with how impressive and functional the new extension is. The old side was, of course, breathtaking to begin with, whereas the expansion first looked slightly dull on paper but ended up being gorgeous. In the extension, glass walls were built between the rooms, due to which the cityscape is visible all the way through to the open space.
Each room became unique. The attic space with a slanted ceiling was made into a quiet, hygge-exuding spot that contains as little technology as possible and is ideal for brainstorming sessions.
“The space was like a unique item of jewelry, and we had the chance to treat it as such during the design process. Everything is completely customized; we carefully fitted the spaces in the floor plan as if using a shoehorn.”
Text: Taina Ahtela Images: Riikka Kantinkoski