The Eliel Saarinen Collection Completed with Photographs in the Museum of Finnish Architecture’s Finna search service

The Museum of Finnish Architecture continues to make available its collections in the nationwide Finna search service. Eliel and Eero Saarinen shared the same birthday, August 20, and on this day in 2021 a selection of photographs related to Eliel Saarinen’s (1873–1950) architectural works will become available on the Finna website. Also included are pictures of works Saarinen designed in collaboration with Herman Gesellius and Armas Lindgren.

The most significant part of the photo collection dates back to the early 20th century during Eliel Saarinen’s Finnish years. The historical photo collection is complemented with photos of his works taken after his death, most recently in the 1990s. Included in the collection are familiar and much-photographed works such as Hvitträsk (1903), Helsinki Railway Station (1919) and the National Museum of Finland (1910).

The photo collection comprises a total of around 400 photos taken by several photographers. From the point of view of architectural photography, the most significant photographers include Heikki Havas (1926–2012), Simo Rista (1933–2021) and Kari Hakli (1940–), each of whom have an abundance of photos in the Museum of Finnish Architecture’s collections. Architect Heikki Havas is known as a skilled recorder of architecture. However, his duties and career as an architect at the National Board of Antiquities involved in restoration projects meant his photographic career came to a halt in the early 1960s. Simo Rista was one of the most significant Finnish interpreters of modern architecture, especially from the 1960s to the 1980s. His photo collection also shows the transition from black-and-white photography to colour. Kari Hakli has extensively photographed architecture and especially the now already lost Helsinki, from the 1960s onwards.

“Photography is a typical means of presenting architecture, but it can never present a three-dimensional building in a neutral way. Each photograph carries the photographer’s own interpretation of the building. This is what makes the historical photo collection so fascinating. We hope the collection will give the public a glimpse of how photographers have interpreted familiar architectural sites at different times. At the same time, we must keep in mind that the Museum of Finnish Architecture’s photo collection comes in part from the Finnish Architectural Review and is thus related to the way the journal looks at a particular building. It is interesting to compare these photos with other historical pictures of the same sites found in Finna,” states Joona Rantasalo, the curator who prepared the Finna initiative at the Museum of Finnish Architecture.

The photographic collection of Eliel Saarinen’s architectural works will be published on the Finna website as high-resolution A3 files. Go here to explore the photographs at the Museum of Finnish Architecture in Finna 

Published 18 August, 2021