70s and 80s

The extensive, drawn out renovation of City Hall was completed in autumn 1970, after which there was little left of the old building to be seen. Just before the renovation was finished in 1970, a significant and somewhat heated discussion about the importance of building conservation ensued in Helsinki. The City Hall was at the forefront of this discussion, as Ruusuvuori’s renovation was criticised for its high price and duration. Another discussion topic was the apparent disregard for the historically significant building the project transformed – the old Hotel Seurahuone.
When Aarno Ruusuvuori’s office made the first renovations to the traditional building in 1965–70, the country was caught up in a strong modernist movement. Older styles were considered stuffy and impractical. At the start of the renovation, Hotel Seurahuone was nearly entirely demolished, and a new modern office building was constructed within its old walls. Only the façade, the entrance colonnade and the Banquet Hall were kept as a reminder of the building’s history. Ruusuvuori’s office designed the building and all its details, striving for a comprehensive piece of architectural art. Ruusuvuori commissioned the artist Anitra Lucander to design the colour scheme.
In 1970, office employees returned to a renewed building that featured state-of-the-art technology. The interior was much fresher than before, and the Empire-style ornaments had been replaced with refined modernist elements. In addition to this, many impressive pieces of art were designed for and installed in the lobby in the early 1970s, including Light Wall (1971) by Eino Ruutsalo, City in the Sun (1975) by Rut Bryk, and Chain (1971) by Kimmo Kaivanto. Eila Hiltunen, designer of the lauded Sibelius Monument, created a sculpture called People in the Course of Times (1971) which was placed in the mayor’s reception lobby. The downstairs lobby was also a good space for exhibitions, and in the 1970s and 1980s, international exhibitions were occasionally organised there.
A new building designed by Aarno Ruusuvuori was established in the centre of the Lion Block in 1988. In the 1980s, the interiors of the old merchants’ houses that belonged to the City Hall block were preserved and restored according to contemporary standards for construction and building conservation. The council chamber and restaurant were the main parts of the work finished in 1988. The building’s courtyard was opened up to the public at the same time. The different layers of architecture are perhaps most visible in the City Hall block’s courtyard. A colonnade made from raw concrete proudly supports the new building, and the large glass windows reflect the block’s older houses.
Laura Kolbe, Pekka Puhakka: Helsinki City Hall. History and Fine Food. Otava, 2008.