Aarno Ruusuvuori (1925 – 1992)

Aarno Ruusuvuori is one of the distinguished Finnish architects of the 1960s. He graduated as an architect in 1951 and his office came into its own in the 1960s. Ruusuvuori taught at the Helsinki University of Technology from 1959 to 1966. Many of his students later became his employees. Some actually called Ruusuvuori’s office “the academy of Ruusu,” as many of his employees later became the most renowned representatives of modern Finnish architecture.
Ruusuvuori’s work is modern and simple. His work can also be considered to represent the brutalist architecture style. He often used raw concrete that was carefully placed to bring out natural light. In the works by Ruusuvuori’s architects’ office, even the smallest details, such as doorframes and sockets, were designed with particular care and purpose. The characteristic features of his modernist and equalitarian architecture can be seen in City Hall in the way the same materials and refined expression of form were used in toilets and reception areas.


The expansive renovation project began in 1965, after Ruusuvuori won an open competition with his entry Stone Zoo. The name is most likely based on the blocks between the Market Square and Senate Square that were given animal names such as the Lion, Elephant, Dromedary and Rhino in the 1800s. The City Hall was thoroughly renovated on a very large budget, as befitted the renewal spirit of the times. The first stage of the renovation was completed in autumn 1970. In the second 1985-1988 stage of renovation, Ruusuvuori supervised the build of a new council chamber and restaurant in the centre of the City Hall block.

Ruusuvuori steered the City Hall renovation according to three principles. First, it was important to showcase the most impressive parts of the building, such as the façade, the entrance colonnade and the Banquet Hall. Second, there needed to be a contrast between the new and old, showing their different profiles. And lastly, the design and implementation of the new architectural elements had to be done in the spirit of the older sections and on their terms. For Ruusuvuori, simple and elegant modernist architecture was just as valuable as the decorative Empire style.

In his hands, City Hall became an honest, straightforward, and impressively modern building that was aware of its history. The building uniquely combines the old and the new. The Empire-style façade of City Hall hides a masterpiece of Finnish modernist architecture. However, the expensive and rather ruthless  renovation that was completed in 1970 did not please everyone. City Hall’s renovation stirred public debate about the importance of building conservation and the historic value of old buildings.


Other significant works by Ruusuvuori include churches in the Finnish cities of Hyvinkää and Espoo, a primary school in the Helsinki district of Roihuvuori, the Weilin & Göös Printing Works (nowadays known as the WeeGee house) in Espoo, and the renovation of the Kluuvi office building in the Helsinki city centre.

During his career, Ruusuvuori also served as a professor at the Helsinki University of Technology, director of the Museum of Finnish Architecture, and editor of the Finnish Architectural Review. During his studies, he travelled extensively around the Nordic countries and Europe. In the early 1960s, before his great projects, he also visited the United States of America and India.

In 1998, after Ruusuvuori had passed away, City Hall was once again renovated. The building that had been the most modern “machine building” in its time, was technically outdated and no longer met the functional demands required of it. This time, Ruusuvuori’s 1960s architecture was the subject of the renovation’s protection and preservation.

Aarno Ruusuvuori: Structure is the Key to Beauty – Järjestys on kauneuden avain. Museum of Finnish Architecture 1992
Aulikki Korhonen: Aarno Ruusuvuori and the modern age. In The Lionheart of the City 1998

Anitra Lucander

Artist Anitra Lucander designed the colour scheme of City Hall. Find out what inspired the artist in her bold design.
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Anitra Lucander