The annual Finnish housing fair, this year held in the suburb of Kivistö, Vantaa, is wrapping up this weekend. Not wanting it miss out, my mother and I headed there earlier today for a look at what’s new and trendy in the world housing, construction, and design.
Our little excursion started off very well. Leaving the car at home, we took advantage of the recently inaugurated train line to the airport, which stops at Kivistö. From the train station, it was less than a kilometre to the fair but free transportation was provided. In fact, not only one but two different types of free transport were offered: regular buses and automated, driverless vehicles. We obviously opted for the latter, though it made for a significantly longer run.
The French-made CityMobil2 prototypes were able to take 10 passengers in addition to the on-board guide. Moving along a pre-determined path, their maximum speed was 13km/h, for safety reasons: if the vehicle’s guiding lasers spot an obstruction in the road, the vehicle makes an immediate stop. At one point during the short journey, our guide warned us to hold on as we were entering an area with lots of pollen in the air – the vehicle’s laser might mistake the pollen for obstructions and come to a sudden, immediate, halt.
The CityMobil2 prototype.
There was no excessive pollen this time however, and we made it to the fair’s entrance without a hitch. Well inside, our first stop was Europe’s largest wooden apartment building, PuuMera. It features 186 apartments over seven floors, with most apartments measuring between 50-60m². I love the concept – wood after all is a renewable resource (at least in Finland) – and I liked the wooden floors and large balconies of the apartments. The exterior is nothing special, but also not displeasing to the eye (my eye). Still, all the apartments on view had only one bedroom, which can get a bit tight if there’s more than one of you.
The PuuMera wooden apartment building.
Our next stop was similarly an apartment building, Opaali, featuring extensive use of wood. I really liked the wooden facade, though that seemed to be one side of the building only. The apartments inside had been decorated with creativity: one was a mock-80s style home with lots of items I remember my parents having when I was growing up. The interior of another apartment had been designed exclusively by youth involved in a programme run by Vantaa city, with the flat furnished for a fictive boy named Kimi. While the furnishings were fun, I wasn’t a fan of the indoor spaces in the building overall – the narrow windows allow for far too little light to seep in.
I loved the wooden facade.
Unfortunately, it seems the wood is featured on only one of the exterior walls of the building.
One more picture of the gorgeous wooden facade…
One of the apartments in the Opaali apartment building had been furnished 80s-style as part of a project an between students and a local museum.
We then headed to the “omakotitalo” section. I use the Finnsh word “omakotitalo”, which translates as “ownhomehouse”, for lack of a good English word for them. Essentially we’re talking about suburban housing, but the Finnish word (as well as the equivalent in Swedish “egnahemshus”) just seems to mean so much more.
Be that as it may, the majority of the housing showcased at the fair were actual houses. Most of them were not inspiring. They were big houses with pretty traditional lay-outs, white walls, and furniture. Some had custom-made Swarovski crystal chandeliers. Others had pools or jacuzzis (they were really selling jacuzzis at the fair). Some, to their credit, showcased new construction technology, like the “dry-safe house” (basically a house that is especially built not to go damp – Brits take note). But the majority of the houses left me either indifferent or unimpressed.
A custom-made Swarovski crystal chandelier. definitely not for me.
A few houses stood out, however. I was a big fan of the Kontio Harunire house, built for a Finnish-Japanese family. The extenisve use of wood both in the building’s exterior and interior and the selective interior design featuring lots of Finnish design classics made me feel right at home.
Corner in the open-plan living room.
Also part of the living room.
Another one that got a wow from both me and my mother straight upon entrance was the Villa Kapee timber house. It had great space solutions, was light and airy, and just had the feel of a real home. We weren’t so sure about the black exterior though, and the ceiling came a bit too low by the upper landing of the stairs.
Open-plan living room.
Open plan kitchen/dining room.
Ceiling came a bit low going up the stairs.. Sign reads: Don’t hit your head!
Kid’s bedroom upstairs.
With reference to the two houses described above, my mother made an interesting comment. While she liked the houses overall, she said she wouldn’t want to live in either of them – with their interior walls made of wood they remind her too much of summer houses and cabins. I think she’s right, there is a similarity, and I wonder if Kontio Harunire and Villa Kapee represent some sort of a moulding together of the summer and suburban house aesthetic in Finland.
A final favourite was the StudioKoti (StudioHome). Measuring just 15.5 m², or just over 20m² if you count in the loft, it features genius space solutions using every square metre of the apartment. Perfect for students, the plan is to rent the studios for 500 euros a month, which (sadly) represents a bargain in the current realty market. Not that any have actually been built yet: the parties behind the studio are still fighting redtape and regulations to get building permission for a block of these ingenious studio flats.
The StudioKoti – small on the outside, roomy on the inside.
Living room corner.
The bathroom is surprisingly spacious.
The bedroom is on the loft.
I left the fair with mixed feelings. There were definitely some cool things and approaches showcased, such as the extensive outdoor spaces from balconies to yards, but too many of the suburban houses did not move me. The interior designs in particular were uninspiring, and my expectation of seeing solar panels on every roof was not met (although I did see them on some). But then again I’m not in the market to buy a suburban house.
Here are some more of my shots:
I really liked the wooden exterior of this house, known as Honka Savukvartsi.
I wish they’d been a bit more imaginative with colours of these houses, some pastels maybe?
Loved this bicycle parking space which I think was part of the Spinelli apartment building.
Plus points for the green roofs on the Urban Villas.
Not sure what the plane was doing there. The PuuMera wooden apartment building is on the left.
The fair area, which will become a real housing area when the fair ends, is very compact.
Living here will mean getting to know your neighbours…
Most – probably all? – of the houses showcased had their own sauna. How very Finnish.
Didn’t have time to inspect this further, but looks like an interesting waste management solution.