Ihantola

Helsinki, Finland | C.1907

Photo Credit: Oksana Smolianinova

Ihantola translates to “Wonderful Place” and oh, what a wonder it is! Built in 1907, the delightfully designed Ihantola is the oldest Art Nouveau apartment building in Helsinki. Though a beautiful blueprint, these historic living quarters were built during a tumultuous time in Finland’s history — and would go on to withstand its emergence as a new nation alltogether.

In 1887, new streets were laid in Helsinki’s Kallio district and the area quickly prospered as a working-class neighborhood. Rows of wooden low-rise homes dominated the area until Ihantola was designed and constructed by master builder O.E. Koskinen in 1907 – changing the surrounding skyline.

Despite the buzz of the brand new building on the block, Ihantola’s units were quite small — and only half had private bathrooms. But common bathrooms offered additional relief for residents, and the apartments provided a comfortable living arrangement for the city’s working class.

Just one year after Ihantola’s construction, the controversial Russification of Finland was reintroduced. This government policy enacted by the Russian Empire aimed to limit the autonomy of Finland’s governing state, the Grand Duchy of Finland, and destroy any Finnish cultural customs. In response, the Finnish resisted, they petitioned, went on strike, and ultimately declared their independence in 1917.

Amid the turmoil, Ihantola remained an attractive residential respite, further accentuated by its Art Nouveau motifs. In 1981, the building was refurbished (and a bathroom was even added to each unit) where it received its now iconic pastel pink facade — only further continuing its namesake as a wonderful place.

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