Lasipalatsi – a restaurant in a fabulous functionalist building

The meeting point in the centre of Helsinki since 1936

Only a few elegant functionalist buildings such as Lasipalatsi remain in Europe. Today, Lasipalatsi is a restaurant, cafe and meeting place known throughout the city, but how did all begin? Read Lasipalatsi’s fascinating history!

Lasipalatsi’s beginning

The Lasipalatsi area originally housed Russian barracks that were located there since 1830. Due to the nearby Turku road, the area was called the Turku Barracks. SOK and Valio rented a plot of land from the City of Helsinki in 1935 and jointly built the Lasipalatsi. The building was completed in 1936

From temporary building to a Helsinki landmark

The glass palace was originally intended to be a temporary building for about ten years until the final city plan was completed. The temporary bazaar type building was a sight to be seen once completed. Its open and light filled spaces were an attraction that drew people from afar. The neon lights and advertisements were a spectacular and colourful colourful part of Lasipalatsi from the very beginning. The designers of Lasipalatsi were architectures students Viljo Revell, Niilo Kokko and Heimo Riihimäki, still at the beginning of their careers.

The building’s most important tenants were SOK’s 700-seat large restaurant and the 800-seat movie theatre BioRex, which was the most modern in the Nordic countries. BioRex was the premiere theatre of SF films at the time and Lasipalatsi itself was featured in many scenes in Finnish film. Varuboden’s grocery store, Siemen Oy – Frö Ab and HOK’s ice cream parlour (previously Valio’s bar) were the most prominent companies in Lasipalatsi for decades.

Functionalism at its very best

The building represents pure functionalism at its best: a movie theatre with its foyer, a dining room with halls and cafeterias, a winter garden, business spaces that you could see through and bright glass surfaces, glossy surfaces, metallic poles, bright wall surfaces with paintings and large glass surfaces – all a sight to be seen in their time.

A popular restaurant and a place to be seen

In the 1930s Restaurant Lasipalatsi was a place to be seen in the centre of Helsinki as well as a popular restaurant. The original dining room had a roof terrace and a winter garden with exotic palm trees ordered from across Europe. Lasipalatsi later moved under the city’s ownership and Suurravintola moved to the SOK’s new building in 1949.

An uncertain future – Lasipalatsi even faced the threat of demolition

Lasipalatsi’s original demolition plans were postponed from one decade to another, but the building was also never refurbished because its final destiny remained unresolved. In the 1980s, Ale-pub’s large advertisements reflected the building’s discount status. It was only once the city’s construction board threatened to fine the building did the real estate authorities renovate the building’s exterior walls. In the summer of 1985, the old greyish-coloured paint was replaced by a tinted white mortar. The citizens of Helsinki also opposed the demolition of the building time and again, and the even the Museum Administration supported its protection.

Lasipalatsi is restored to its original splendour

Lasipalatsi was restored to its original appearance and completely restored in 1998. The renovation was planned between 1996 and 1998 by architect Pia Ilonen and Minna Lukander from the architectural firm Talli. Architect Martti Lukander was responsible for the interior design. In the autumn of 1998, Lasipalatsi regained its 1930s glamor complete with its colours and lighting. Restaurant Lasipalatsi was one of Helsinki’s “New Wonders” and one of the centre’s focal points.

Lasipalatsi Mediakeskus Oy hosted Lasipalatsi from 1998-2015

The Lasipalatsi Film and Media Center is owned and operated by the City of Helsinki and it operated in the spirit of the open and opulent building as it was designed in the 1930s. The modern functionalist space became a space for urban culture that was easily accessible to all. Lasipalatsi brought modern technology and IT services to people and also featured European films, changing exhibitions, urban studies and a wide range of cultural events.

Grand Plans for the Future – Museum in Lasipalatsi

In September 2013, Föreningen Konstsamfundet proposed to the City of Helsinki that a new Art Museum be built in Lasipalatsi and Lasipalatsi Square. In May 2014, the City Council decided unanimously to accept the creation of a new real estate company to accommodate the project and transfer the ownership of the Lasipalatsi building to the company co-owned by Konstsamfundet and the city of Helsinki. The business spaces in the building will be managed by the city’s real estate authority. The Amos Rex museum’s construction and Lasipalatsi’s repairs began in January 2016 (Design by JKMM Architects).

Lasipalatsi is renovated

Lasipalatsi was renovated and restored to its original splendour. Amos Rex is to become a cultural centre, consisting of the old Lasipalatsi, the Bio Rex cinema and the exhibition space under the Lasipalatsi Square. The museum entrance, lobby and other facilities were placed in the northern part of the actual Lasipalatsi. Due to its protected status, the property was not changed externally. The renovation of the Lasipalatsi commercial premises was completed in March 2017. The work on the exhibition hall under the square and the Lasipalatsi museum facilities will continue through 2018.

Restaurant Lasipalatsi is again the most spectacular spot to be seen in the city

The conserved interiors of Lasipalatsi and Café Lasipalatsi’s restaurant have been refurbished with care. During the expansion, the restaurant also opened three new cabinet spaces for customers. and better meeting rooms in centre of Helsinki are hard to find. In addition, Restaurant Lasipalatsi has expanded the lounge on the magnificent second floor and offers its guests an even more comfortable space in a unique, functionalist environment. When it first opened Lasipalatsi was, from its very opening, the place to be seen in Helsinki. Through the renovation Lasipalatsi has reclaimed that position once again. (Design: Design Office Talli, interior designer Martti Lukander)