Museum of Finnish Architecture / Press release
February 16, 2017

How Finland Was Modernized – A Story Told in 200 Drawings

Exhibition at the Museum of Finnish Architecture, large exhibition hall, March 1–August 27, 2017

Welcome to the press conference on Tuesday Feb 28, 2017 at 11 am
and to the opening at 6 pm!

The Museum of Finnish Architecture celebrates Finland’s centenary with How Finland Was Modernized, an exhibition presenting an unprecedented selection of drawings from the museum’s collections. Through 200 architectural drawings, the exhibition takes visitors on a journey through history, charting Finland’s birth as a modern nation.

Modern life began with the rapid spread of the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century. After declaring independence in 1917, Finland embraced the birth of this new era by eagerly projecting an image of itself as a thriving, modern nation – an endeavour in which Finnish architects played a prominent role.

The revival of economic activity during the post-war reconstruction era and the war reparations paid by Finland to the Soviet Union witnessed radical changes in the design of industrial and commercial buildings. New shopping centres sprang up around the country, and new factories and power plants were built to replace those lost to the Soviet Union after the war. Finland also built numerous public baths and outdoor swimming centres to promote the health and wellness of its citizens, as only befits the social agenda of a rising modern nation.

How Finland was Modernized shares an unusual angle on Finnish history by charting Finland’s evolution into a modern nation through a selection of original architectural drawings. The exhibition features an unprecedentedly large selection of works from the museum’s own collections. These exquisitely drawn artworks offer insights into a major watershed in Finnish architecture through which the story of modern Finland unfolds era by era.

The exhibition outlines the various social, economic and technological changes that have influenced Finnish architecture up to the present day. The story is told through six themes, each highlighting a different perspective on Finnish history: motorization, recreation, trade and commerce, industry, wellness and services.

The exhibition includes a number of significant donated works previously unseen by the public, including drawings by W.G. Palmqvist, Jouko Ylihannu, Eliel Muoniovaara and Einari Teräsvirta. The most recent project presented in the exhibition is Juhani Pallasmaa’s Kamppi shopping mall from 2000.

How Finland Was Modernized forms part of Finland’s official centenary programme for 2017. It is thematically linked to the Modern Life! exhibition soon opening at Helsinki Art Museum (HAM).

The exhibition was curated by the Director of the MFA Archives Elina Standertskjöld, curator Antti Aaltonen, curator Anna Autio, researcher Eriika Johansson, researcher Petteri Kummala and Head of Research Juhana Lahti. The visual design and production by architect Timo Vikkula.


The accompanying programme will introduce the public to the secrets of architectural drawings. The museum’s resident conservator will give demonstrations showing visitors the intricacies of museum conservation, and our experts will offers insights into ‘reading’ and interpreting architectural drawings in a series of special lectures. The programme also includes visits to archives and sites outside the museum.


The Museum of Finnish Architecture is the custodian of nearly half a million drawings, an unprecedentedly large selection of which is featured in How Finland was Modernized. This treasure trove of architectural history is now open to the public in a wholly new way with the museum offering anyone the chance to adopt their own architectural drawing. By adopting a drawing, you receive a certificate and a copy of the drawing to hang in your home or office. Depending on the size of the drawing, the cost is from €400 to €700, and the proceeds will go towards the upkeep of the drawing collection.

Further information and press images
Hanna Ruokomäki, Communications
tel. 045 7731 0468