The Museum of Finnish Architecture proudly presents Tribute to an Architect Trio: Nyström–Petrelius–Penttilä, a slice of architectural history from Finland’s pre-independence era.

The exhibition showcases the work of Usko Nyström (1861–1925), Albert Petrelius (1865–1946) and Vilho Penttilä (1868–1918), a trio of architects renowned for their distinctive Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) stone buildings, which have had an enduring formative influence on the townscape of inner-city Helsinki.

The architectural practice founded by the trio in spring 1895 was one of Finland’s earliest turn-of-the-century architectural collectives, differing from others in passionately embracing a fennophile identity. In addition to their design work, all three architects also made an active contribution across a broad spectrum of community endeavours.

The trio’s most fervid Fennomans were Albert Petrelius and the staunchly pro-Finnish Vilho Penttilä, who made his mark as one of the most influential writer-architects of his day and editor-in-chief of the architectural periodical Suomen Teollisuuslehti. Petrelius divided his time between architecture and his main job working for the Pohjola insurance company. Usko Nyström lectured at the Polytechnic Institute (today the Aalto University School of Science and Technology), recruiting fresh architecture and engineering graduates to work for their practice. Carrying on the tradition of École des Beaux Arts-style studio teaching, the practice provided valuable follow-up training to young graduates.

Thanks to its great versatility, the practice rapidly established a foothold and reputation on the local construction market, designing as many as 18 apartment buildings in downtown Helsinki between 1895 and 1907, a time when building in stone was still a relative novelty in Helsinki. The trio left a lasting, distinctive mark on Helsinki’s townscape, and also built a number of architecturally notable banks across the country, Penttilä being the most active bank architect of the three.

Spanning from the 1880s to the early 1920s, the exhibition presents a selection of projects designed collaboratively by the trio together with independent projects from their youth. Most of the exhibits are original drawings from the MFA’s own collections, supplemented by material borrowed from private patrons and public establishments. Many ink wash sketches have never been exhibited before.

The exhibition highlights the groundbreaking achievements and pivotal role played by Usko Nyström. In addition to his original drawings, it features sketchbooks and two turn-of-the-century wooden drawing boards. Also featured are excerpts from the numerous articles that Nyström contributed to the Finnish encyclopedia in the 1910s.

The exhibition was curated by the MFA’s resident researcher, Eija Rauske, PhD, who has worked at the museum since 1979 and has co-curated and scripted many of our exhibitions. She has also authored and edited books and articles about architecture, and in 2004 completed her doctoral dissertation for the University of Helsinki’s Art History Department analysing apartment buildings by Usko Nyström–Petrelius–Penttilä Architects.


Ilona Hildén, Communications
tel. 045 7731 0468