THE 125th ANNIVERSARY -
THE UNIVERSITY OF ART AND DESIGN 1871-1996

A History of Lost Locations

Kasarmikatu 21.
The first location of the School of Applied Arts in 1871.
Kasarmikatu 21. (C.L. Engel, 1836).
©Photograph: Ida von Geriche. Helsinki City Museum. 4633.

Lack of space has to a great extent effected the history of the University of Art and Design. Lost opportunities have taken much energy, but in the end it was a lucky strike that the University ended up on the backyard of the city, to the shore of the Old City Bay and into the Arabia factory estate.

In ten years time space has trebled, and the University can now proudly present high-level studios and laboratories. The backyard is planned to become a new cultural centre for Helsinki. In spite of this the general public still connects the University with Ateneum and calls the people of the University 'Atskies'.

The localities in Ateneum became crammed as early as in the beginning of the twentieth century. The rooms had actually not even to begin with been practical either for the Central School of Applied Arts or the School of the Finnish Academy of Art. When the number of students grew and education became more varied, lack of space became the greatest obstacle for developing the educational plans. The collections of the Ateneum museum also suffered, as a large number of the pieces of art had to be stored a way.

The First Try

In the 50th anniversary in 1925 the question of accommodation was discussed again. The Society of Crafts and Design and The Finnish Art Society together made a petition to the government for building a museum in Töölö. Thus Ateneum could have been used solely for educational needs. The petition did not lead to results (Committee report 1944). In the beginning of the 1930s the same organizations made a new petition, now for a school building to be built in Töölö. The depression slowed down the plans un til the Helsinki City Council passed a resolution to reserve a site for a school building near Hesperia Street. A plan for the building was made, but instead, a dwelling house was built on the site, and a new hunt for a building site was started.

Life went on under the roof of Ateneum, although it was rather insufferable. It was not always easy to keep up order. Art director Arttu Brummer interfered in a case on the First of May 1949. The students had a party on the eve of the day. Some bottles of beer were left over from the party. On the First of May the school was closed. But still three conscientious boys came to tidy up as normally after a party. They emptied the bottles in brotherly consent. As the snake in Paradise a lady janitor, Mrs. Ruokolainen, appeared on the scene. For their First of May celebration the boys got lowered marks in conduct. Brummer wrote a letter to the board saying that the punishment was exaggerated. The boys had not caused any disturbance and 'when they were give nnotice of the punishment, they behaved very well' (Brummer to the Board of Directors of the Institute of Industrial Art, 12th Dec., 1949).

The Competition

The Society of Crafts and Design announced an architectural competition in 1956 for a new school building to be built in the town part of Meilahti. Not even this noteworthy plan for localities was realized, certainly not because of the discussion of taking the school into state ownership, as was given officially as the reason, but because of several different reasons. The administrative state of the school was unclear and relations to the university institution now springing up was loose. The direction of the institute did not work hard enough strategically, and at the end of the 1960s new goals had to be set.

By the end of the 1960s there were about 900 students in Ateneum. The Ilmala studio in Pasila with a film editing/cutting room and laboratories somewhat eased the situation. Besides, at Pursimiehenkatu 2, there were rooms for metal art and interior decoration students. Graphics had to be looked for at Unioninkatu 10. The localities were poorly equipped, and downright dangerous.

The New Pasila Project was launched in the summer of 1972. The Ministry of Education ratified plans for a new building for the University of Industrial Arts. The Government decided to locate the Theatre High School and the Finnish Film Archives to the same site. In 1975 the Ministry authorized the Construction Council to take action in the matter. A year later there was a set-back: the Government decided to quit the building plan. The following year was long and painful, but then Parliament made a decision for new buildings to these three institutions in Eastern Pasila. Draft plans were ready in 1982.

The New Pasila Project 1982
The New Pasila Project. 1982.
©Photograph: Simo Rista. UIAH/Picture Archives.

In the autumn of 1983 news started to seep through that the Pasila Plan was going to be buried. The blow hit hard when the Minister of Education Gustav Björkstrand verified the rumor in September 1983. The embittered representatives of the student organization invited Björkstrand, Kalevi Kivistö, Arvo Salo, and Katariina Suonio (all Social Democratic Ministers of the government) to a Pasila Tribunal in October, where was set forth the belief that 'the victim did not die of a people's power action, but as a result of bureaucratic violence'.

When the Pasila Plan was definitely buried, eyes turned to the old Arabia factory that was on hire in the town part of Toukola. The University of Art and Design has been located by the Old Town Bay for ten years now. The nine-storey building has room for all other activities except the Film Art Department that will stay in Pursimiehenkatu for two more years until the dream of an Audio-Visual Centre for film, theatre, and the new medias will come true, and a building for them stands ready on the Arabia Shore.

ILKKA HUOVIO
ilkka.huovio@uiah.fi