The Finnish National Theatre


2nd stage refurbishment


The Finnish National Theatre



Size br-m²

9 426

Now that the second phase of the National Theatre’s renovation is complete, the renovated premises will support the theatre’s uncompromising artistic work for decades to come.  The theatre will be able to renew and diversify its repertoire with an appreciation of its long national history.

The three phases of the National Theatre’s construction

The main building of the National Theatre, the Main Stage Building, was completed in 1902 on the Railway Square. The National Romanesque building was designed by architect Onni Tarjanne (formerly Törnqvist). The theatre was extended in the 1930s with a temporary storage building for the Great Theatre, according to Tarjanne’s design.

The theatre continued to expand with the addition of the Small Stage in 1954, designed by Kaija and Heikki Siren. The building is a landmark of Finnish modern architecture and has established itself on the northern side of the theatre district, along Bergbom Alley and Kaisaniemi Park.

The entire theatre district is historically listed and protected in the zoning plan.

Renovation of the Theatre Quarter in two phases

The first phase, the renovation of the Great Theatre building, was completed in the early 2000s. The renovation was designed by architect Sari Schulman. It was intended that the second phase, which included the 1930s and 1950s additions, would also be completed quickly after the first. This did not happen, however, and over the years the pressure to renovate the buildings increased significantly. Under the threat of partial closure of the theatre’s premises, project planning for the second phase was able to start in spring 2018, after funding was secured.

A very demanding renovation project

In line with the objectives set by the Ministry of Education and Culture, the National Theatre was to have premises and facilities for the next 100 years. The aim was to link the different parts of the theatre quarter built in different eras by eliminating inefficient floor level changes between functional spaces. The aim was also to provide the theatre staff with working spaces with natural light.

In order to achieve these objectives, the temporary  theatre warehouse from the 1930s was to be demolished to make way for a new building. The new building was to house the core of all the stages, the logistical nerve centre of the theatre, and new naturally lit facilities for the staff. However, this solution had to be abandoned by the theatre after a complaint was filed in the planning permission stage, resulting in a lengthy and costly appeal process.

Instead of building new, the design of the premises had to revert to the all-encompassing renovation of the temporary 1930s building. As a result, the overall scale of the project was significantly reduced, with some spaces even dropped from the design programme. The renovation work on the temporary building was extremely heavy and exceptionally expensive. The load-bearing structures had to be strengthened from the foundations to the roof and modern building and theatre technology had to be adapted to the premises. This also entailed extensive changes to the plans for the Small Stage Building.