Anitra Lucander ­(1918-2000)

Visual artist Anitra Lucander joined Aarno Ruusuvuori in the renovation of the Helsinki City Hall in 1968–1970. Lucander designed the colours of the exterior, interior and furniture. She contributed fundamentally to the 1960s-style design and implementation of the colour schemes for both the Helsinki City Hall and Helsinki’s Empire-style city centre.
In the design for the City Hall, the Empire style meets the 60s in a seamless palette of bright colours. With the exception of the exterior’s powder blue, the colour scheme is dominated by orange-yellow hues inspired by the ceiling decorations in the Banquet Hall. The design, which incorporated over thirty colours, is very simple: the carpeting, bathroom tiles, laminated interior surfaces, furniture, even the number tags in the cloakroom all got their own colour.
On the office floors of the City Hall, for example, visitors are greeted by a rich world of colour that is different for each floor and in each cardinal direction. The various shades of green, turquoise, yellow and peach are most likely a reflection of her numerous journeys abroad. The colours also interact with the colour schemes of the surrounding Empire-style block of buildings.

Lucander was known for her strong sense of colour, and her artistic expression was well suited to architectural visualisation. The colour scheme of City Hall extended to the exterior, interior and the furniture.

In the spirit of the modernist ideal, many facilities and structures were razed, but the Empire Room remained. Based on her scrapbook, the bright colours of the hall’s decorative wall were Lucander’s inspiration for the key colours of her design, which paired bright green with yellowish green and orange. Even though most of the chosen colours are anything but modest, their spatial composition is carefully considered and quite subdued. Bright colours are often gathered into clusters between broad white surfaces.
Anitra Lucander got to know Aarno Ruusuvuori at the end of the 1950s. As a colour designer, she started working together with architects to design public buildings. For instance, she designed the colours for the Old Church of Helsinki during its renovation in 1967. Together with Aarno Ruusuvuori, she designed the colours for a primary school in the Helsinki district of Roihuvuori in 1966, as well as Helsinki City Hall’s interior and the Empire-style blocks of Helsinki Market Square in 1968–1970.
Anitra Lucander was of a multi-cultural background: Finland-Swedish, Estonian and Russian. At the end of the 1940s, she studied in the Free Art School under Sam Vanni, Sulho Sipilä and Sigrid Schauman. Anitra Lucander was the only woman amongst the pioneers of early abstract art in Finland.

Lucander’s development was also heavily influenced by her many journeys abroad, especially to Paris. Lucander visited many Mediterranean countries, such as Italy, Spain, Greece and Turkey. She was also familiar with Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, India and Nepal. Getting to know the Indian culture and philosophy greatly affected her way of thinking. During her travels, she paid special attention to colours, such as the yellow hues of a desert or colours of oriental fabrics. The strong turquoise of mosques also influenced her paintings.

In her thirty years as a professional artist, she created abstract paintings, figurative still lifes and portraits, large collages and fabric appliqués, in which she continued developing the composition of colours and shapes. The largest appliqué made by Lucander is a nine-metre-wide wall appliqué from 1968 for the cafeteria of the Roihuvuori primary school.
Sanna Teittinen: Anitra Lucander – A Poet of Colour. EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art publications 30/2011
Laura Kolbe, Pekka Puhakka: Helsinki City Hall. History and Fine Food. Otava, 2008.

Aarno Ruusuvuori

The Helsinki City Hall is one of architect Aarno Ruusuvuori’s greatest works. Get to know the person behind the concrete.
Read more about Aarno Ruusuvuori