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Black-and-white photo of a group of men putting up a wood-framed wall unit.
Mounting a Puutalo Ltd. wall frame in Colombia, 1956. photo: ELKA

New Standards at the Museum of Finnish Architecture 21 Jan –10 Apr 2022

First displayed in the Pavilion of Finland at the Biennale Architettura 2021 in Venice, New Standards presents the history of a uniquely Finnish approach to mass-produced housing in the twentieth century. 

New Standards
21 January – 10 April 2022
Museum of Finnish Architecture, Small Exhibition Hall
Kasarmikatu 24, Helsinki

New Standards presents the story of Puutalo Oy (Timber Houses Ltd.), an industrial enterprise established in 1940 to address the Karelian refugee crisis, when some 420,000 Finns were displaced by war. At this moment, architects, industrialists and decision-makers came together to create a new model of factory-built housing that modernised Finland’s construction industry and contributed significantly to the post-war rise in living standards across the world. In less than a decade, the company became one of the largest manufacturers of prefabricated wooden buildings in the world. The story illustrates the ways in which architecture was connected to politics, industry and economics. 

The exhibition documents the heyday of the enterprise from 1940 to the mid-1950s. The Puutalo houses were developed by some of Finland’s leading mid-century architects and their archetypal appearance belies the innovations that went into their structural design, spatial arrangement and domestic utility. Archival drawings, photographs and advertisements illustrate the ambitions of this period, revealing new innovations and illustrating the modifications that buildings underwent for different climates and cultural contexts. The houses, schools, barracks and hospitals manufactured by Puutalo may still be Finland’s most widespread architectural export.

Originally commissioned and produced by Archinfo Finland for the Pavilion of Finland at the Biennale Architettura 2021 in Venice, the exhibition is conceived by Laura BergerPhilip Tidwell and Kristo Vesikansa. New photography of the Puutalo houses has been specially commissioned from acclaimed photographer Juuso Westerlund in order to show how these houses are inhabited today, and how they have been personalised over decades of use. After 80 years, Puutalo buildings have proven robust enough to withstand extensive use, updates and modifications in a wide variety of contexts and climates. 

Visit the exhibition website: newstandards.info