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New Standards publication offers new perspectives on factory-built timber houses

New Standards Cover 001 crop low

The book accompanying Finland’s exhibition at the Biennale Architettura 2021 will be launched at the Pavilion of Finland on 23 September 2021.

Standardisation in building is frequently deplored as monotonous and boring, but it persists as a recurring dream for architects aiming to harness the power of industrial production. The new publication, edited by curators Kristo Vesikansa, Philip Tidwell and Laura Berger sheds light on factory-built houses of the reconstruction era with several articles and previously unseen images.

New Standards – Timber Houses Ltd 1940–1955 examines the conditions that affect standard, industrial and manufactured buildings by re-visiting a forgotten chapter of wood construction in post-war Finland. The story centres on the industrial enterprise Puutalo Oy (Timber Houses Ltd.), which was established in 1940 as part of Finland’s response to a refugee crisis brought about by war. In less than a decade, the company became one of the largest manufacturers of prefabricated wooden buildings in the world.

A spread of a book, on left a headline
An open spread of a book with yellow paper and line drawings: a floorplan and a perspective drawing of a small house.
An open spread of a book. On left a full-page photo of a caged bird hanging against a blue wall with some white and orange areas. On right a smaller photo of some light-coloured shirts hanging on a dark brown wall.
An open spread of a book. On left, an old map with Finland and Colombia in black. On right, a black-and-white photo of wooden elements being loaded on a train wagon.

From 1940 to 1955, thousands of buildings were exported from Finland to sites on every inhabited continent, constructing a legacy of housing and urbanisation that has been largely overlooked. Today, these wooden houses may be Finland’s most widespread architectural export. Situated at the intersection of architecture and industrial design, they use a limited range of components to achieve thousands of variations suited to different functional, climatic and cultural conditions.

The book offers a new perspective on this legacy through careful analysis of the ways in which these buildings and projects emerged from a rapidly changing political landscape. In addition to articles by the authors, a series of commissioned essays bring forth exports to the Stalin-era Soviet Union and Cold War Berlin, and the company’s advertisements on the domestic front. These historical studies are complemented by contemporary images by acclaimed photographer Juuso Westerlund, which capture views of life in neighbourhoods from Helsinki (Finland), Aarhus (Denmark) and Barranquilla (Colombia).

See the list of contents on the site (link).

The book published by Garret Publications is available at Idea Books (link), Suomalainen kirjakauppa (link) and selected bookstores.

Close-up of a book cover with brick-coloured canvas, text
ENGLish language, 293 pages

Two spreads of a book with a lot of text, three small black-and-white photos and headline
Two spreads of a book with different-sized colour photos
Three flat-open spreads of a book on black background, a lot of text, few images and headline