Book review: Munksnäs-Haga, 1915
This week we review the book Munksnäs-Haga. It was written by architect Eliel Saarinen and published in 1915.
A hundred years ago the population of Helsinki was growing – still is – and Eliel was on the case. According to the latest numbers population was pushing 150,000 in the capital, and something had to be done.
Houses had to be built.
Perhaps in the Munkkiniemi/Haaga area? Nothing much there at the moment.
But of course houses couldn’t be built willy-nilly. Plans had to be drawn up. Eliel spends the firts 50 pages of the book showing pictures of his favourite houses abroad. He really likes Paris.
Paris is so great, because they have these old houses and automobiles and whatnot, and why can’t Helsinki be more like Paris?
Eliel draws up a map. This is more like it! He works on a grand scale.
Indeed this city-planning project is not to be taken lightly – after all, it has taken up five years of Eliel’s time.
“People!” he yells to his staff, “we need to draw more buildings! The city is growing!”
A scale model is built. There’s no shortage of statues, cathedrals or grand boulevards. Doesn’t this look a little bit like Paris? Great!
But here comes the real shocker: the Munkkiniemi area doesn’t look like this today. At all. Only two of the houses Eliel planned was ever built, both in 1920.
This of course doesn’t make the area any worse. It just doesn’t, well, look like Paris. Above is an aerial picture from the latest issue of local newspaper Munkin seutu.
And what about Eliel? He emigrated to the United States in 1923 to became a professor of architecture. His son Eero would later become one of the masters of American 20th century architecture.