Helsinki Seafarers’ Centre
by ARK-house Architects


Finnish studio ARK-house Architects have completed a centre for visiting seamen at Vuosaari Harbor in Helsinki, sandwiched between two long curving timber walls.

Called Helsinki Seafarers' Centre, the building is a multipurpose space provided for seamen who travel to and from the harbor, and includes coffee facilities, a laundry and computers.

The white interior is pierced by flashes of bright colour and large back-lit ceiling panels.

Photographs of this project are by Jussi Tiainen.

Here is some more information provided by the architects:


ARK-house Architects
Pentti Kareoja, Seung-Ho Lee, Pasi Kinnunen

The plot for the projected Helsinki Seafarers´ Centre is situated by the main entrance to the Vuosaari harbour, on the northern corner of the area.

In practice the building location is the only point in the whole harbour area that contains any natural forms and elements.

As the only public building in the area, its role is to serve as a place of respite; a small multipurpose building for the seamen that arrive at the harbour from afar.

The starting point in a David and Goliath juxtaposition has required a carefully considered architectural strategy.

The infinitely small volume of the Seafarers’ Centre was in danger of being completely dominated by the crushing hectare-sized steel warehouses, and the artificial landscape of tarmac fields and container seas.

As a counter-point, a soft organic form language was chosen for the building, as well as a wood construction. The architecture of the building could be described as contextual in the wide sense of the word: the preserved hillock, with its trees and rocks, is an essential part of the architecture of the building.

The objective in the design of the building has been to create a unique identity, because in the best case scenario the distant traveller can take home a positive memory of something tantalizingly strange yet hospitable.

The completely wooden structure and its compact shape are a homage to the building tradition based on the purposefulness of wooden ships and the aesthetics that spring form it, as well as a comment on the ecological challenges of the present.

The premises offer both physical and spiritual nourishment: the spiritual word and composure, coffee, a laundry and computers. Particularly important are the cosy atmosphere and the simultaneous experience of familiarity and newness.

The wooden frame of the building and the laminated veneer lumber rafters have been reinforced by concrete walls cast onsite.

The board lining of the southern exterior face has been diagonally interleaved, and the north-side profile consists of vertically slanted Norrwegian-style tongue-in-groove siding.

The timber siding has been manufactured from lightly tinted Siberian larch.

The commissioners behind the project are the Finnish Seamen’s Mission and the Finnish Seamen’s Service, both of which have long traditions and an international history of supporting seafarers. The building has been consecrated as a church.

The denominational aspect is brought out in a sensitive way, respectful of the religion and cultural background of each visitor.

Architect: ARK-house Architects / Pentti Kareoja (principle), Seung-Ho Lee, Pasi Kinnunen
Location: Vuosaari harbour, Helsinki
Design period: 2007- 2009
Completion: autumn 2009
Size: 320 sq-m2
Commissioner: the Finnish Seamen’s Mission and the Finnish Seamen’s Service

Posted on Tuesday February 2nd 2010 at 1:06 am by Chris Barnes. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Andy

    It’s amazing how none of the warmth of the exterior reached into the interior.

  • romance-bad

    all white. scared.

  • biboarchitect

    I Like it!

  • biboarchitect

    I like it just wished if the skylights was affected by the roof pattern

  • eb nyc

    Agree. Looks too sterile inside. Do we still need that obsession with clynical minimalism? No.
    But overall a good project, I like it.

  • such an elegant design.

  • Spanish speakers; Check out my blog on finnish design!

  • Soupdragon

    It appears to work well on plan, but the white minimalism doesn’t quite seem an inviting place for someone who has just spent time at sea. Not sure how many sailors are into the boutique aesthetic?

  • Jmw

    All very nice, but how would the exterior look during the day? Looks nice with the external lights and sunset, but one suspects this isn’t the case during the day.

  • Like very much the external design, good job!

    François Beydoun

  • erj


  • Abhi

    thoughtful and beautiful

  • cbr

    Just remember to look at the location: Helsinki. Where the number 1 issue is to maximize light, and where white and skylight make perfect sense.

  • cas

    looks like a fish

  • cacas

    It’s amazing how the curves become so good!

  • to jmw: These images are like a photo session. They are ARchitecture Photographs in the true sense of the word.

    In reality the building is a multi purpose house where everyday functions and more festive functions take place. Two sea captains I know said that the building is very good for the purposes it has been made for. You can read more about its also in my article in a10 newest issue, and it has been published in Arkkitehti.

    Phhotos are photos, a building is a building. I liked it a lot and it is in good contrast to the bulky big things in the new Helsinki harbour. Go see yourself.