In its waterfront setting, the ‘Sea Pavilion’ Meripaviljonki is widely visible around the Eläintarha Bay surrounded by parks. It is an eye-catching, modern addition to the Helsinki Workers’ House – a ruggedly beautiful, granite Art Nouveau building – adding to the historical cityscape of downtown Helsinki. The area is a cultural centre with theatres and a temporary concert venue during the Helsinki Festival. The restaurant caters for 200 sitting guests and the kitchen, although small, is fully equipped for fine dining, additionally relying on the related congress centre facilities of the Workers’ House when necessary. Meripaviljonki is the first floating public building in Finland and technically innovative. The raft is connected to two giant tripod anchor piles by a rectangular, swinging arm and there is no detectable movement for visitors on board. The pontoon below the raft contains all the HVAC installations and a novel solution has been found for connecting these to land-side infrastructure below the entrance bridge, able to accommodate a 2.4m variation in sea level.
Contemporary architecture in locations such as this is critically viewed against the long Finnish tradition of waterfront buildings and presents special challenges with planning consents. Our design concept centres on the visitor experience. Curved space free from corners is fluid and intimate, while 270-degree views and full height glazing offer astonishing sea views in the heart of the city. The glazed facades incorporate external glass beams, intentionally contrasting with the adjacent, heavy Art Nouveau building while, at the same time, connecting them. The choice of copper, alongside glass, for the facades references the famous, neighbouring 1960s “Round House” and recognises the material’s sustainability credentials, long-life, minimal maintenance and beautiful patination. In fact, the copper is already oxidising naturally and darkening in the photos on these two pages. Copper also characterises the main entrance lobby and is used to form lettering for the restaurant’s illuminated sign.