Puutalo OY supplied over 500 houses to all over Denmark in the end of 1940. Multiple housetypes were designed for the export, which were then given common Danish women names like Anna, Bente, Ditte and Else. Photo: John E. Carrebye / ELKA


New Standards presents the history of a uniquely Finnish approach to mass-produced housing in the twentieth century. First displayed in the Pavilion of Finland at the Biennale Architettura 2021 in Venice, the exhibition will receive its first showing in Finland at the Museum of Finnish Architecture’s small exhibition hall on 21th of January – 10th of April 2022. 

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 people were displaced by war. At this moment, both architects and industrialists came together to create a new model of factory-built housing that modernised Finland’s construction industry. In less than a decade, the company became one of the largest manufacturers of prefabricated wooden buildings in the world. The story of Puutalo’s production and export during these two decades illustrates the ways in which architecture connected with political, industrial and economic forces during a period of intense global exchange and development.

The New Standards exhibition documents the history and development of these pre-fabricated buildings from 1940 to the mid-1950s. The houses were developed by some of Finland’s leading mid-century architects and their archetypal exterior appearance belies the innovation 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. Although the houses, schools, barracks and hospitals manufactured by Puutalo are not included in most standard histories of architecture, they may be Finland’s most widespread architectural export. The company and the buildings that it produced contributed significantly to the post-war rise in living standards across the world.

Originally commissioned and produced by Archinfo Finland for the Pavilion of Finland at the Biennale Architettura 2021 in Venice, the exhibition is conceived by a curatorial team of three academics linked by their work at Aalto University: Laura Berger, Philip 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.

Source: Museum of Finnish Architecture