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  • Impressive architecture and fascinating stories – the Sponda Legends walking tours were enthusiastically welcomed

Impressive architecture and fascinating stories – the Sponda Legends walking tours were enthusiastically welcomed

The Sponda Legends walking tour participants marvelled at the impressive premises and stories behind the staircases and lobbies of valuable properties. “Back in the day, the entrances served as business cards for the buildings,” says Petteri Kummala, Expert at the Museum of Finnish Architecture.

The walking tour, organised in honour of Sponda’s 30 anniversary, begins from the Fennia building in the corner of Rautatientori. By stepping into the New Baroque style entrance hall embellished with green marble, the pedestrian is immediately transported to a new world.

Tour participants pay attention to the blue and white coats of arms decorating Fennia’s façades. According to Kummala, it is assumed that a more well-known blue-and-white emblem – the Finnish flag – was also created inside the historic building.    

Grand Hotel Fennia was known as the place for high society to make an appearance in the 20th century, and its winter garden hosted the most sumptuous parties of its time,” says Kummala who works as the guide for the tour.

Political statement and a triumph for classicism 

On the outside of the buildings, Kummala encourages the visitors to raise their eyes to the upper edge of the Fennia façade where the Finnish coat of arms and a list of names of European cities are grandly displayed.

“It is astonishing that when the building was completed in 1899, such a strong political stance was allowed. It was the time of Russian rule, but in Helsinki’s most central place, Finland was declared to belong strongly to the Western European heritage instead of the East.”

Built in 1870 by Emperor Alexander II of Russia, the glorious boys’ school is better known as the Gymnasium of Alexander. The strengths of the valuable history-exuding building are the impressive entrance staircase, the considerable room height of the lower floors, and the large Viennese-inspired halls

The next location on the tour is Mannerheimintie 16, better known as the Capitol cinema building. The entrance door opens out onto a staircase decorated with spectacular decorative paintings and curved cast iron railings. According to Kummala, the illusory decorative paintings were made by artists in the 1890s.

“The Capitol building is considered to be the most advanced interior work of its time and a piece of art displaying 1920s classicism,” says Kummala.

Although the Neo-Renaissance façade of Boulevard 1 with its arched windows is beautiful on the outside, its most impressive attraction can be found on the inside. According to many visitors, this site is the home of the most magnificent staircase.

Tragic fates and layered architecture

Next is the grand staircase of Mannerheimintie 6, known as Gymnasium of Alexander, and according to many visitors, the most magnificent staircase of the tour, Bulevardi 1.

At Erottajankatu 7, we will learn about the tragic history of the architect of the building and marvel at how masterfully late Art Nouveau architecture combines with the modern glass walled architecture in the courtyard.

Sponda’s head office is a great example of layered architecture, where modern glass-walled architecture is seamlessly combined with late Art Nouveau architecture. Architectural masterpieces can often be found in sheltered courtyards, where one might not even consider looking without a guide.

“The purpose of the tour is to highlight details that are easily missed when walking in the city. The presentation of Sponda’s sites and their layers also provides a perspective on a sustainable future,” says Kummala.

On the mission to preserve common history

The walking tours organised jointly by Sponda and the Museum of Finnish Architecture were originally launched in honour of Finland’s 2017 anniversary. The tours gained enormous popularity and a decision was made to re-organise the tours on Sponda’s 30th anniversary. 

“As a real estate owner, we want to cherish the architectural and cultural value of our historical buildings that are over 100 years old. The open tours offer the citizens an opportunity to take a peek at the closed buildings and hear fascinating stories about their recent history,” says Marketing and Brand Manager, Anita Riikonen.

Behind the closed doors, you can find beautiful staircases, each more beautiful than the last. The decorations often reflect the strong hierarchy that prevailed in the early 20th century. The lower floors, used by the master and mistress, were carefully decorated, and the upper floors for servants were more modest.

Preserving valuable buildings means that each Sponda property has its own maintenance and repair programme, which the company follows systematically. Significant investments are made every year in the maintenance and restoration of cultural and historical sites.

Investments are made every year in the maintenance and restoration of cultural and historical sites.

According to Riikonen, more and more companies are also looking for unique business premises with a fascinating story behind them.

“Added value is especially in demand right now when employees are encouraged to come back to the office after the COVID-19 period. Even the historical locations can be adapted to modern hybrid work when the premises are designed in close cooperation with interior designers and our premises professionals.”

One might think that the stone castle, completed in 1905 on the highest point of Korkeavuorenkatu, was the residence of Sleeping Beauty rather than the former head office of a telephone company. The noteworthy features of the building include its magnificent staircase and the façade’s granite coating made of stones of various colours. 

Familiar city centre sites in a new light

The penultimate site on the tour is the head office of the Helsinki telephone company, designed by Lars Sonck, which at first could be mistaken for the castle of Sleeping Beauty. Participants are given a task to look for elements on the flamboyant façade that point to the developer of the building.

The tour ends in the courtyard of Sponda’s head office, where each visitor can talk about their favourite site. After the enthusiastic chat, it becomes clear that almost every location has left an impression in somebody’s mind.

“You see the familiar city centre sites in a whole new light, and, in the future, you know to look up when walking along the street,” says one of the visitors.  

In a group or independently

  • During October, Sponda organises six walking tours, of which tours on 27 and 28 October are open to the public. (Please note! The tours were filled in a few hours. Sponda is planning on organising new tours in the spring.)
  • The tours showcase lobbies and staircases of properties that are over 100 years old in the city centre.  
  • You can also complete the tour independently with Sponda’s guide.

Sponda modernised lobbies of city centre sites ”A lobby is an entrance to the company brand” >>

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