Published in 2/2023 - Care


Changes and Losses of Hospital Architecture

Kristo Vesikansa

Infill development is bound to change the overall character of hospital complexes, even when old builds are preserved. The original Tampere University Central Hospital (1962) designed by Erkki Helamaa and Veijo Martikainen has been sieged by massive new construction; currently in dispute is whether the additional buildings being planned may rise to match the height of the protected ward tower. Photo: Pertti Räsänen / MFA

With the new healthcare buildings, a large number of old care buildings will be demolished or modified for new use. What kind of architecture and building heritage will we lose in the process?

The projects introduced in the Care issue, along with many similar undertakings in our country, are resulting in a large number of health care buildings being torn down or converted into new uses. What is being lost in the process is not only tons of concrete and steel, but also indisputable cultural and historical values – not to mention the memories that are embedded in the walls and wards of these life-saving buildings. 

At the greatest peril are care buildings from the 1960s and 1970s, which made health care services accessible to all citizens. Even though they mostly represent everyday utilitarian construction, they were also frequently featured in their time on the pages of the Finnish Architectural Review. Present-day decision makers seem to view the buildings as little more than problem properties plagued by indoor air issues and low floor heights – nuisances that can be wiped out without objections.

A different problem is being faced by buildings located in more remote areas, which are being vacated as newly established wellbeing services counties centralise their operations. A number of former hospitals and sanatoriums have already been converted into housing, care homes or rehabilitation centres, while others have been left to deteriorate unoccupied. In addition, many care buildings have been given a temporary lease of life as refugee centres. ↙

The Central Finland Central Hospital (1954) in Jyväskylä was vacated in 2020 when the new Hospital Nova, presented in this issue, was completed; the old hospital was sold to a property investment company that is developing the complex as an area for housing and jobs. Jonas Cedercreutz and Helge Railo positioned the crenelated hospital building, as well as the power station and staff residences, according to the terrain and sunlight. Photo: Helge Heinonen / MFA
The Kainuu Central Hospital (1969) designed by Reino Koivula was demolished when the new hospital building was completed in 2021. The complex, which comprised a tall ward building, pedestal-like procedure unit, separate utility centre and staff residences, was based on an invited competition arranged in 1961. Photo: Hynninen / MFA
In Turku, the fate of the U Building (1968) of Turku University Hospital by Martta and Ragnar Ypyä has been debated for years. As things stand now, the building will be vacated in 2024. Reusing the massive building has been considered to be difficult, and it will probably be torn down and replaced with a new hospital building in the future. Photo: Osvald Hedenström / MFA
With Oulu University Central Hospital (1976), Reino Koivula was able to implement the principles of structuralism with a methodical approach whose only point of comparison in Finland is the University of Oulu campus (Kari Virta 1973–). The grid-like complex is fated to be demolished, bar a small fragment, in connection with the OYS2030 renewal project. Photo source: Arkkitehti 1/1978
Within the space of a few decades, the development of vaccinations and medications made the tuberculosis sanatoriums built during the first half of the 19th century obsolete. The Tampere Sanatorium (1939), designed by Bertel Strömmer and Mikael Nordenswan, with its dynamic balconies was converted into a hospital in the 1960s and is currently being used as a refugee centre. Photo: Aarne Pietinen / MFA
Kari Virta’s expansions to the Kuopio University Central Hospital are the pinnacle of postmodernism in Finnish hospital architecture. The patient tower (1985) has been afflicted with indoor air issues and will be torn down in connection with the New Heart 2025 project. On the demolition list is also another postmodern classic designed by Virta, the Sinikello daycare centre built for the children of hospital staff in 1987. Photo: Kari Hakli / MFA
The centralisation of operations at Helsinki University Hospital to Meilahti and the Laakso Joint Hospital will leave several architecturally valuable buildings without any use. In the Töölö hospital complex, the original monumental Finnish Red Cross Hospital (1932) designed by Jussi Paatela is to be converted into homes, while the red-brick extension (1959) and dormitory (1967) by Veli Paatela will be demolished to make room for a new residential block. Photo: HUS