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Finnish Architects in the Spotlight: Architects Mustonen

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The architects’ office led by Tapani Mustonen is particularly known for renovations of our modern cultural heritage. The reconstruction-era heritage is also highlighted in Finnish Architecture Navigator, where, among other works, the majestic hydropower plants and residential areas designed by Aarne Ervi have just been published.

In the era of climate crisis, there is an increasing need for architects specialising in the renovation, restoration and transformation of existing buildings. Repair construction is indeed increasing rapidly and is already seen as an essential and valued part of the architectural profession.

Mustonen Architects' work focuses in particular on the restoration and renovation of our built heritage. The projects are often very challenging and finding the right solutions requires expertise. One of the most impressive examples in the firm's portfolio is the restoration of the Alvar Aalto -designed Vyborg Library, completed in 1935. The restoration design led by Tapani Mustonen started as early as 1994, and the extensive works were completed in 2013. 

“We believe that repairing and upkeeping existing buildings in ways that both uphold their architectural values and ensure their health and safety, is sustainable.”

Mustonen collage
Refurbishments and restorations by Architects Mustonen: Hvitträsk, Vyborg Library and Töölö Library. photos: Olli Helasvuo, Petri Neuvonen, Arno de la Chapelle

The practice has worked on Aalto buildings on other occasions, too. One current work is the Three Crosses Church in Imatra, which has fallen into poor condition due to neglect of maintenance. When looking back at Architects Mustonen’s operations, it seems that sometimes architects are also needed as key actors to put into motion building rescue operations. One of the most recently completed Aalto renovations is Villa Skeppet in Tammisaari, which was converted from the home of Göran and Christine Schildt into a home museum in 2018–2020.

“We prefer traditional building methods and applying the same techniques which have been used when the building was originally built. The solution is, however, always tailored to the specific situation. When newer materials or techniques are applicable, we don’t shy away from them, keeping the emphasis on making sure the result stands the test of time.”

The aim of the practice is to understand the characteristics and values in the existing architecture and bring them forth. A good example of this is the renovation of Töölö Library, designed by Aarne Ervi and completed in 1970. The renovation demanded for alterations such as rearranging some library spaces and opening up a new connection to the park embraced by the curved building from the lobby. Despite the changes, the library's original sublime character was preserved – or even enhanced.

“Understanding the problem and defining the task at hand are the most important steps of the design process, especially when working with existing buildings. We look at the building or built environment as a whole and first aim to develop an understanding about which changes are essential in order to reach the desired outcome.”

Finnish Architects in the Spotlight invites architects or architectural practices to share their values and design principles through images and short texts. See the Mustonen Architects’ photo series on Archinfo's Instagram account through this link.

Find out more about Mustonen Architects on the firm's website through this link (opens in new tab).

All posts featured in the Finnish Architects in the Spotlight series can be found by using the tag #FinArchSpotlight.