Construction14.01.2013

Counterfactual Helsinki – how it could have looked like

The scale model of the Stockmann-building

The scale model of the Stockmann-building.

Studio Unbuilt Helsinki is a project based in the Museum of Architecture in Helsinki initiated by Nene Tsuboi and Åbäke. One of these projects is the Stockman building designed in 1916. The model presents one of the architectural proposals made for the competition of the new store of G.F. Stockman in 1916 and its further extension in 1949.

The idea of the studio is to bring alive the alternative options as scale models, how the certain buildings would have looked like if they were designed by other architects. The models present the “loosing” ideas of the competitions held at the time. Some ideas gave a lot of inspiration to the current buildings.

Young architects and students have each picked one unrealized project and researched them in the museum archives. Afterwards the research is translated into scale models. In the end of 2013 there were over 100 models which exhibited and the findings and resources published in a book and presented during the design capital of the world.

The building is designed by Wäinö Gustaf Palmqvist and Einar Sjöström in 1916. The joints of the model reflect the joints of the Kone escalators which were the first ones in Helsinki in that time and one of the crowd pleasers.

“We wanted to use really thin panels but not normal plywood as the structure of the plywood is too visible. That’s why we wanted solid birch for the model”

“We wanted to create something else than just the model, to give it a little twist and to push and push it to the next level and to make the people wondering, how is that made and how”, explains the studio manager Willem Heeffer.

The façade is made out of four layers of thin panels of birch KoskiGluelam and KoskiPly thinplywood. Glue laminated panels in the façade front and back are 5mm thick and thinplywood just 0,4mm in between the panes and also seen for example on the window muntins.

Kento Yamada has been involved in the project as the researcher and model maker. He has been researching the history and most of all producing the technical drawings for the machining and the outlook of the model. The starting point was the original draft of the building. The model of Stockman has been made by using cnc and laser cutting techniques with the help of the Art and Design department of the Aalto University.

Other projects have been for example a scale model of Kiasma, made out of bronze, which is already presented in Kiasma; Alko factory made out of glass, which will be done in co-operation with Iittala; the Helsinki railwaystation, made out of concrete in co-operation with XX Betoni; and Kioski stands, made out of Mecano blocks. All the material choices have are based on the history, of just to the feeling.

“Stockmann-building just gave us the feeling of wood” says Willem Heeffer, the manager of the Studio Unbuild Helsinki.

The project was started in August 2012 and come to an end on September 2013. After that the models collectively displayed at the Museum of Architecture for 4 months with all the background info collected for the work pieces.


The façade is made out of four layers of thin panels of birch KoskiGluelam and KoskiPly thinplywood.

The façade is made out of four layers of thin panels of birch KoskiGluelam and KoskiPly thinplywood.