Helsinki Railway Station is where I get myself into trouble. Many people will argue that it is not an Art Deco building. I have seen it described as late Finnish Art Nouveau. I don't really care, I think it has some deco elements but what is more important, I like it.
Eliel Saarinen won the competition to design a new railway station for Helsinki in 1904 and over the following ten years the pink granite building was completed. The entrance to the station is placed in a huge arch-shaped wall supported but two rectangular columns. Several stepped arches are laid into the brickwork culminating in a large grid-patterened window above the canopy of the doors. A clock is centred in this window. The arch itself is topped with a copper apron turned green with exposure to the elements.
Flanking the doors four statues of mythical giants or gods holding spherical lamps stand welcoming travellers into the station. The figures were designed by Emil Wikstrom and offer a very creative way to incorporate lights onto the front of a building. My picture shows two of the statues with snow on their heads and shoulders.
The whole building is crowned by a copper-topped clock tower. The copper work is a collection of simple geometric shapes including several series of stepped rectangles and domed pineapple shapes. (Do you like my technical architectural language?) Above each clock face is a piece of decoration which reminds me of the winged-sundisk motifs of Ancient Egypt which became popular with later architects, especially after the discovery of Tukanhamen's tomb by Howard Carter in 1922.
Is the Helsinki Railway Station Art Deco? The short answer is probably 'No', mostly because of the time it was designed and built. I think it does, however, show the development from the organic architecture of Art Nouveau to the more geometric architecture of Art Deco as part of a gradual process over many years incorporating many influences. All art movements take time to evolve there is rarely a big bang which creates a new movement. There is always something that has gone before that has inspired others one way or the other.
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