Helsinki’s Ugliest Newest Buildings

Around Helsinki’s old shipbuilding harbour, the “West Harbour”, near to the centre of Helsinki, architects have managed to design several of the ugliest eyesores right on the water’s edge for us  to stare at for the next 100 years, if they last that long – and “will they last that long” is a pertinent question because they have covered with rusting steel, glass and wood:

The new European Chemical Authority Building is pictured here above. It is a massive structure built around the old red brick shipbuilding workshops, most of which have been renovated using red brick.

This new building is huge (some 10 storeys) and looks like an alien ship that has arrived from outer space after having been caught in the rain. The whole structure is covered in big square steel plates that are (deliberately) covered in rust. These angry looking plates hanging on what looks like aluminium frames. Onlookers agree that the building fits in well with the shipyard cranes because it looks like a workshop where they build things. But when you compare it to the rest of the area, most people agree that it is a sore thumb. It feels too modern and too aggressive for Helsinki’s softer feel of mainly lower 6 storey apartment and office blocks. I have heard children asking their parents if this is a prison or some other nasty place. Children appear to be afraid of this building. As Trump has said  about Mr. Biden “Nasty…” 

Another “Nasty Building”, that also wins the “Ig Nobel Prize” for ugliness, is nearby on the other side of the same harbour. In fact there are two groups of buildings that suit one another only in as much as they are entirely and brazenly different and do not fit together. The first is the new high-rise Clarion Hotel,  built rather quickly from steel, concrete and glass  by a Norwegian millionaire.

This too has so many storeys – some 20 if you can actually count them – that is soars above the newly constructed apartments that have been in this newly developed part of Helsinki. There is no other building in the whole of Helsinki that bears any resemblance to it – and it looks like a Dalmatian square-spotted dog! It too dominates the whole area and is in an uncomfortable contrast to the EU Chemical Building just across the water.

Right next to the Clarion Hotel Building are 2 new “Wooden Buildings” that are totally not wooden except for a few wood sidings on the exterior walls and a few strong posts holding up some of the floors. The rest of the buildings are made from concrete structure mixed with steel to give them strength!

These fake “Wooden Buildings” are separated by what looks like a bulky concrete parking bunker. It links the separate buildings together and looks more like an after-thought by planners, architects and owners. Here you can see what it looks like:

The whole of this area is called “Jätkäsaari” (roughly translated stevedore island), and sits on reclaimed land that encircles a small rocky island. The city dumped stone granite waste mined from the underground tunnels of the newly built western metro. 

Jätkäsaari is planned to have new homes and offices for 16 000 residents and 6 000 workers by 2030. The strong demand for housing in Helsinki and the high cost of land and building in the city has meant that space must be used efficiently. So parking is limited and buildings are pushed close together. This has resulted in the construction of this strange heavy concrete parking bunker connecting these“Wooden Buildings”, and like most of the other buildings in this area, there is a claustrophobic feeling of being hemmed in on all sides by all these new buildings. Naturally the construction companies and the developers have been delighted to be able to squeeze in as much as possible into such an expensive area.

So take your cameras and come and enjoy world-famous Finnish architectural wonders… but bring a gas masks because traffic congestion has also been a big new gift to residents in this part of Helsinki. The new West Harbour Ferry Terminal causes traffic chaos several times a day as cars and lorries queue to get out of town from the RORO ferries and fill the air with diesel fumes.

Site Footer