Name

Kela’s Main Office Building

Description

Renovation

Client

Kela, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland

Year

2024-

Size br-m²

26 390 br-m2

The Social Insurance Institution (Kela) is considered one of Alvar Aalto’s most successful works. Recognizing its profound importance and the need for preservation, Kela has embarked on a thorough renovation project aimed at revitalizing this landmark structure. Based on condition assessments and maintenance reports, the main office building’s key technical systems are at the end of their lifecycle. Additionally, there is a significant need for repairs to elements such as the exterior envelope and deck structure.

In the beginning of 2024 Kela launched the renovation project’s planning phase, focused on determining the project’s scope, cost estimates, and timeline. This phase will evaluate the renovation’s breadth, exploring enhancements in the building’s functionality, adaptability, and spatial and energy efficiency to align with the demands of contemporary hybrid work environments. The renovation demands extensive expertise from the team and collaborative efforts with the National Board of Antiquities and the Alvar Aalto Foundation.

History of the building

In 1949, Aino and Alvar Aalto were awarded first place in the competition to design the headquarters for the Social Insurance Institution (Kela), with their proposal ‘Forum redivivum’. Initially planned for a site at the intersection of Mannerheimintie, Töölönkatu, and Kivelänkatu, the project was later relocated to a smaller, triangular lot in Taka-Töölö, bounded by Nordenskiöldinkatu, Messeniuksenkatu, and Minna Canthinkatu, due to site issues.

To integrate the large office building seamlessly into the urban fabric, Aalto segmented the mass into smaller components, creating a U-shaped layout that opens towards Kirjailijanpuisto (Writer’s Park) and features a sheltered courtyard. The building offers a customer service hall lit by prism-shaped skylights and includes facilities like a small library, echoing Aalto’s previous library designs.

Kela’s main office building stands as a culturally and historically significant total work of art (Gesamtkunstwerk), with special attention to the smallest details and material choices. Constructed between 1953 and 1957, the building was meticulously designed using materials such as red brick, copper, and black granite. It is further enhanced with unique lighting fixtures and bespoke furniture.

Photo credits: Kela