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Layered architecture and urban planning

The building stock of Kokkola has been influenced by the architectural ideals and construction cultures of various periods. The layered architecture tells its own story of the evolution of Kokkola.

International progressive urban planning ideals found their way to Kokkola early on. The merchants and seafarers of the vibrant market town brought back influences from around the world. The grid-shaped town plan and the street networks and parks of Mäntykangas were ahead of their time.

The Functionalist buildings in the town centre, such as the fish market completed in 1938, brought new winds of modernity.

More recent building stock includes the 1960s terraced houses designed by Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen in Pikiruukki. Next to them are slightly older blocks of flats built for military personnel in 1955 and 1957. They were drawn by Heidi Vähäkallio-Hirvelä, who worked as a planning officer at the construction department of the Defence Forces. With the park and gardens dominated by coniferous and deciduous trees, the buildings form a cohesive whole that has great architectural and spatial value.

  • Kruununvoudintalo, the house of a state tax collector in Hakalahti, was built in its current location at the end of the 18th century. The building is an important part of Kokkola’s history and one of a handful of buildings still in use from the period. Its cultural historical value makes the building an integral part of Kokkola National Urban Park. The site has been inhabited since the mid-1500s, when the estate was given the name Hakalax.

    Kruunuvoudin talo ja pihaa.

    The house was made a local heritage building and named after the state tax collector Christian von Willinghusen. Under the house, there is a dry-laid cellar made of natural stones, with an arched ceiling and dirt floor. According to legend, there was once a tunnel leading to the cellar, which the tax collector von Willinghusen used to smuggle merchandise past toll stations. The cellar was in intensive use from the end of the 1700s until recent times. Later the house was occupied by the Kjemmer and Kyntzell families, among others. The building was renovated in the 1990s.

    The Kruununvoudintalo estate is also home to the Hakalax House, which was donated to the city by Mr. and Mrs. Hakalax. The two houses form a harmonious courtyard where many original garden plants still survive.

    The buildings are owned by the Kruununvoudintalo Society. The purpose of the society is to preserve the historically and culturally significant buildings. Kruununvoudintalo can be hired for meetings and celebrations in a historical setting. A catering service is also available.

  • The architecture of Neristan and Oppistan tells the story of Kokkola’s development and the architectural ideals and cultures of different periods. It shows how the town became divided into two districts, the “lower town” of seamen and craftspeople, and the “upper town” of the bourgeoisie – merchants and officials.

    The local plan was drawn by Johan Persson Gädda and divided into blocks of equal size. Over time, as properties changed hands, many blocks especially on the western side were split into smaller ones, while the blocks on the eastern side remained intact. This led to social segregation, and the two sides became colloquially known as Neristan and Oppistan – lower town and upper town. Oppistan was home to the city’s wealthiest merchants and shipowners and the most impressive houses and public buildings. Neristan was inhabited by craftspeople and seamen, and the houses were more modest.

    Soak up the atmosphere of the wood-built quarters of Neristan

    Neristan is one of Finland’s most valuable and best-preserved historical wood-built quarters. The uniform street plan of Neristan was designed after a fire ravaged the town in 1664. The densely built town was almost completely destroyed. The plan was drawn in 1665 by Johan Persson Gädda, and it reflects the town-planning ideals of the Renaissance period. Buildings were aligned with the streets, and only residential buildings were street-facing. Outbuildings were situated on the back of the plots.

    Kuvassa Neristanin värikkäitä puutaloja.

    As a result of several fires, the majority of the surviving period buildings in Neristan date from the 19th century. Despite the fires, the buildings are still aligned according to Gädda’s master plan.

    Protected heritage

    Neristan’s building stock was under threat in the 1960s. City authorities intended to demolish the old wooden buildings and replace them with modern blocks, as was typical of the time. The plan was never realised, as people began to recognise the cultural historical value of the area in the 1970s. Neristan was granted a conservation plan in 1982. The National Board of Antiquities designated the wood-built quarters in Kokkola’s grid plan as a nationally significant built cultural environment.

    Kuvaa Neristanin puutalon pihapiiristä.

    Neristan consists of 12 blocks of colourful wooden houses, and it is a popular residential area. The wooden houses exude maritime history and local pride over Kokkola’s cultural heritage. Traditional Ostrobothnian carpentry and respect for wooden architecture are evident in the buildings. For centuries, the “gossip mirrors” mounted on window frames have enabled residents to see what is going on outside on the streets. In many windows, you can see traditional porcelain dogs, which were turned to face in or out to show whether the seaman living in the house was at home or at sea. Neristan is a trip into the past.

    Lapset kävelevät Neristanin kaduilla.

  • The Roos House is located in Neristan. The stone building was commissioned by Anders Roos, a wealthy shipowner, as a home for the Roos family and their ten children and as premises for Roos’s business in the 19th century. When it was completed in 1813, the Roos House was the third stone building in the whole of Kokkola. It remained Kokkola’s largest and most impressive private home for many years. The Roos House was probably built according to drawings sourced from Stockholm. The two-storey mansard style house has features of Rococo and Neoclassicism. Downstairs was for daily use, and the upstairs rooms were used for parties and formal occasions. When Alexander I of Russia visited Kokkola in 1819, a reception was organised in the upstairs rooms of Roos House. In 1861, the town’s first upper elementary school was set up there. A row of outbuildings was destroyed in the fire of 1860, and a brick-built granary on the south side was demolished in the 1960s. A bank operated in the main building in the early 1960s. In 1963, the building was bought by the City of Kokkola, and the K.H. Renlund Museum was opened on the second floor. The museum was founded with a bequest from Karl Herman Renlund. A renovation project led by architect Krister Korpela was carried out in the 1980s.

    Kuva Roosin talosta ja talon pihasta.

  • The highlights of Kokkola’s town-planning and architectural history create a layered continuum in time. It is best explored in the museum quarters, which includes buildings from four different centuries. Buildings that are part of the K. H. Renlund Museum and the natural history museum Kieppi can be found on this atmospheric site.

    Pedagogio and Lassander House

    The red-painted Pedagogio dating from the 1690s is Finland’s oldest school building. It is the oldest surviving wood building in an urban setting, excluding churches. The style of the building represents Swedish baroque. The northern end of the säteri-roofed building was a lower elementary school until 1867. The southern end was a synod hall used by the church council. The chamber room was probably occupied by the school teacher. Later on, the building was used as a night shelter for the poor. In the 1890s, the building was briefly used again as a school, and at the turn of the century it became a museum and library. The building was restored to its current look in the 1960s.

    Built in 1748, Lassander House is a rare example of a two-storey wood-built townhouse. The interior represents an 18th century merchant’s family home. You can explore the history of trade and shipping at Lassander House. Occupied by various merchant families, the building was moved to its current location from Kustaa Aadolfin Katu, and it is one of Kokkola’s oldest surviving residential buildings.

    The third building in the museum quarters, a stone house completed in 1818, was built as an apartment for the pedagogio’s rector. The building has also been used as a primary school and public library. The Contemporary Folk Art Museum ITE took over the building in 2009.

    Pedagogiotalo kadulta päin

    Kieppi, Kokkola Museum of Natural History

    The Kieppi natural history museum represents the most recent period in the museum quarters. Founded in 1982, the museum was first housed at the salt granary of Roos House and at the Hagström corner. The collection was moved to the museum quarter in 1999, when a new exhibition centre was completed. The old log building of Kieppi was destroyed in a fire in 2019, and it has since been completely restored. The Empire-style board cladding was mostly salvaged.

    Veikko Salkio, the founder of Kieppi, dedicated his life to nature conservation and environmental education. Today Kieppi features three major collections, all achieved through the perseverance and collaborative spirit of collectors. They are Veikko Salkio’s own natural history collection, Viljo Nissinen’s minerals collection, and Armas Järvelä’s butterfly collection.

    In summer, the old bakery turns into the Vohveli café, serving unique and delightful treats.

    Vohvelikahvilan vohveliannos

    Kuva museokorttelin sisäpihalta kahvion pihapiiristä.

  • Kokkola National Urban Park includes important examples of Progressivist ideals and the zeitgeist. At the turn of the 1900s, new urban planning influences arrived in Kokkola. Societal awakening and new winds in urban planning contributed to the emergence of the garden city movement in Kokkola among the first Finnish cities. The new thinking was put into practice in the master plan for the Mäntykangas district.

    Squares and meeting places

    In 1886 and 1901, the city was expanded westward by one row of blocks. It was also the start of the first systematic urban development and expansion in Kokkola. The new plan followed the contours of the landscape and the ideals of the garden city movement. The plan was drawn by architect Lambert Pettersson in 1909. Pettersson’s plan followed the urban planning ideas of Camillo Sitte, which combined artistic and free-form design. From the grid plan of Neristan, the streets would now spread out across Mäntykangas in a fan shape towards the west. At the intersections of the streets there are small squares designed as meeting places for residents. Although Mäntykangas was primarily intended as a residential area, there were also some public buildings such as Vartiolinna (civil guard headquarters) and the Renlund school. The landmark of the area is the water tower designed by Selim Arvid Lindqvist. The Mäntykangas area is a nationally significant built cultural environment.

    Pyöräilijä Mäntykankaalla

  • The green space of Katarina Square is immersed in history. It is located on Torikatu next to the old water tower. The site is dominated by Vartiolinna, the headquarters of the Central Ostrobothnia Civil Guard, which was completed in 1927. Designed by Ole Gripenberg, the Pompeiian red building is a fine example of 1920s Classicism. The building was acquired by the City of Kokkola in 1947 and is now home to Kokkola City Theatre.

    Kuvassa Vartiolinna ja sen edustan puistoa

    The square features the Hylkeet sculpture by Karl G. Nylund depicting seals, which was donated to the City of Kokkola to mark its 350th anniversary in 1970. There are two sculptures by Pekka Jylhä outside Vartiolinna: Suojeluskuntalainen (2020), which depicts a civil guard soldier, and Lotta (2008), which depicts a member of the wartime Lotta women’s paramilitary organisation.

    The old water tower of Kokkola stands on the edge of the Katarina Square. Construction of a public water supply network began in Kokkola in the early 1900s. The construction of the water tower started in 1914, but it was not completed until 1921. A fire guard was stationed on the top floor, and during the Winter War the tower was used as a plane spotting station.

    The service station on the edge of the square dates from 1931 and represents a muted Nordic style of Classicism. Known locally as Grahn’s Shell, the service station was the first in Kokkola and became Finland’s longest surviving service station in the same location. The service station is a snapshot of a time when cars were starting to become more common. An unstaffed service station operated here until 2021.

  • Mannerheim Square was the old market square of Kokkola. It was used as a marketplace until 1936, and renamed Mannerheiminaukio (Mannerheim Square) in 1942. The buildings around the square reflect the emergence of the merchant class and wealth in the town. The old market square also played a role during various wars in Finland’s history. It was used as a recruitment location and was ultimately named after military leader and one-time President of Finland Carl Gustaf Mannerheim. The sculpture known as the Kokkola Statue of Freedom was installed in the middle of the square in 1920 to commemorate White Guard soldiers fallen during the Civil War. It was designed by sculptor Johan Münsterhjelm.

    City Hall

    City halls were typically built in prime central locations. Completed in 1837, Kokkola City Hall is a rare surviving example from the autonomy period under Russian rule. It was designed by Carl Ludvig Engel in the Empire style, and its construction was overseen by shipowner and merchant Anders Donner. The City Hall has been used for many purposes over the years. It has been a customs house, a court building and a local prison. In recent years, it has been used for public meetings and formal celebrations.

    Libeck Hospital

    Another notable building on the edge of the square is a house built by the merchant and shipowner Anders Roos. Built in 1810 as a family home for Roos’s daughter, it was the second stone building in Kokkola at the time. The town’s first hospital started operating on the second floor in 1853. Named after the then-owner, pharmacist Gustav Libeck, the hospital was originally known as the Libeck hospital for the poor. Libeck bequeathed his estate for the establishment of a hospital. In his will, Libeck stated that the hospital was to have 15 beds reserved for poor people, pauvres honteux, free of charge. Libeck’s pharmacy started operating on the ground floor before his death.

    Entinen Libeckin sairaalan rakennus