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Juuso Westerlund's photographs shine in the New Standards exhibition in Tromsø

An exhibition showroom with several photagraphs hanging on walls and a table that has a scale model of a wooden building and drawings.

Mari Hildung

After touring Finland, the exhibition on the story of Puutalo Oy (Timber Houses Ltd.), which premiered at the Biennale Architettura 2021 in Venice, is now on display at the Perspektivet Museum in Tromsø, Norway.

As part of the Pavilion of Finland's exhibition New Standards at the Biennale Architettura 2021 in Venice, acclaimed photographer Juuso Westerlund photographed the contemporary life and inhabitants of houses built by Puutalo Oy (Timber Houses Ltd.) in the 1940s and 1950s in Helsinki, Aarhus, Denmark, and Barranquilla, Colombia. Curated by Laura Berger, Philip Tidwell and Kristo Vesikansa, the exhibition has since been showcased  at four museums and galleries in Finland from Helsinki in the south to Oulu in the north. Meanwhile, Westerlund's "Domestic Matters" photo series has expanded to include two more Puutalo sites in Finland, in Raahe and Oulu.

Juuso Westerlund photographed the Puutalo timber house neighbourhood of Aarhus, Denmark, in the summer of 2020. The exhibition also includes photos from Helsinki, Raahe and Oulu in Finland and Barranquilla in Colombia. photo: Mari Hildung

New Standards opened at the Perspektivet Museum in Tromsø, Norway, in June, and the exhibition will be on display until the end of the year. The museum, which specialises in photography with an emphasis on Nordic perspectives, features Westerlund's images prominently in the exhibition. The story of Puutalo Oy is a fascinating example of the mindset that enabled the development of the Nordic welfare state as people pulled together in times of need.

Puutalo Oy was founded in 1940 to help house Karelian refugees as the Winter War forced nearly 420,000 people to leave their homes. Industry, decision-makers and architects joined forces to develop a new wooden type house that could be industrially mass-produced to solve the national housing emergency. Initially established for domestic needs, Puutalo Oy grew to become one of the world's largest export organisations for prefabricated timber buildings in less than a decade.

In addition to Westerlund's contemporary photographs, the exhibition includes a wealth of archival material, including drawings, photographs and advertisements, demonstrating the post-war ambitions towards construction.

Perspektivet Museum is located in the centre of Tromsø in a wooden house dating back to 1838. Museum curator Marthe T. Fjellestad (centre) together with photographer Juuso Westerlund and New Standards curators Kristo Vesikansa and Laura Berger and graphic designer Päivi Helander. photo: Mari Hildung

Originally commissioned and produced by Archinfo, the New Standards exhibition at Perspektivet was produced in collaboration with the museum and will remain open until 3 November 2024.