History of Rautatalo Building


In the year 1945 Hakasalmen Oy bought a lot on Keskuskatu right next to Stockmann to build a new businessbuilding. An
architectural competition was held, which was won by Professor Alvar Aalto with his “Casa”-titled plan. Other participants in this competition were three top architechts: Viljo Revell, Markus Tavio and Arne Ervi.

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Aalto´s plan was “Greetings from Italy” named like the Aalto-Foundation’s showcased exhibition at Marmoripiha. At the center of the building there is a three-story high atrium, Marmoripiha (Marble yard) which has floor material made of of white Carrara-marble and the balconyrailings are coated with travertine.

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Rautatalo was built in 1955, and since that it has been seen as a milestone in Finnish architechture. Keskuskatu facade was one of the first metal facades built in Finland, which was made using copper as as draping material and brass windows and doors on the street level.

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Rautatalo (Iron house) is named after it´s owners which were Rautakonttori Oy, Rautakauppojen Oy and Turkiskauppiatten Oy. The name could also have been Kuparitalo (Copperhouse) or Pronssitalo (Bronzehouse) considering the metallic facade at Keskuskatu.

During the building perioid in the 1950’s there was foreign exchange regulations and foreign supplies needed an importing licence. So unconventionally most of the building supplies and materials has to be made by the subscriber, for example Marmopiha’s railings that are coated with travertine plates and the white Carraran marble (Blanc Claire) used in he floors.

There was a rough heave of the sea during the transportation of travertine plates imported from Italy, which caused some of the plates to loosen from their fasteners that caused them to break. These broken plates were not discarded from the production. Aalto placed them in Marmoripiha’s railings on the Keskuskatu’s side cutted in smaller parts, where they still are reminding of the rough seas during the transportation.

Many typical elements to Alvar Aalto were developed during the planning of Rautatalo, such as bronze door handle, nauris-lights (turnip-lights) and specially designed cobalt blue circular saw bricks. Kirjatalo that is located near Rautatalo has facade which is almost identical with Rautatalo, but on the inside the Carrara-marble has been used in the walls and travertine as floor material, the opposite from Rautatalo. Details designed to Rautatalo can be seen in Helsinki for example in Sähkötalo, Kulttuuritalo and the head office of Kela. At Seinäjoki there is Seinäjoki kuntokeskus and at Rovaniemi there is Rovaniemi’s Lappia-talo.

For over sixty years of time Rautatalo has had many well known attendants. With Hakasalmen Oy, Artek also attended Rautatalo twice. Artek’s shop and Galleria Artek were located on street level and on the second floor. Bakeryshop Hildén and Lihakunnan myymälä (Meat municipality’s shop) were long time attendants in the building. You can still see the original floor tiles at Restaurant La Famiglia. 

Design Center had art art exhibitions and Marimekko’s shop attended the building for a long time. Rautagrilli restaurant attended the building for ten years, and after that the restaurant was transformed into hamburger restaurant Carrols, until in the early 2000’s an Italian style restaurant La Famiglia attended that restaurant space. La Famiglia is located in the same space even today.

Cafe de Columbia started at Marmoripiha since house was built and this is a name that many remember as the Rautatalo’s cafe. Cafe served till the 1980’s, after that Marmoripiha was the most popular disco in the metropolitan area, until the “Saturday nigh fever” ended. This made architecht scene notice that the Alvar Aalto’s designed Piazza was about to be destroyed. On the behalf of the Finnish Architects assosiation in the year 1991 Counsil of state protected Rautatalo with building protection act. 

The protection act considers the facade on Keskuskatu, the entrance and the stairs, valopiha and the lights located in the roof and the solid interior elements of the cafe.

Today Rautatalo is owned by three private grant giving foundations: Suomen Kulttuurirahasto (Finnish Cultural Foundation), Jenny ja Antti Wihurin rahasto (Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation) and Alfred Kordelinin säätiö (Alfred Kordelin Foundation). The foundations bought the building in the year 2006. In the early 2000’s Rautatalo was renovated for Merita bank – later known as Nordea. As the bank became the main attendant of the building -marmoripiha was closed from the public.

Since the bank released the premises, there was a renovation done in 2017 on the protected facades at Keskuskatu and on the interior. the renovations were done with close cooperation with Museovirasto (Finnish heritage agency). The copper facades were still renovatable, but the original brass windows and the flag pole had come to the end of their lifespan.

The updated office and conference spaces main attendant became Visma Finland Holding Oy and Marmoripiha by Dylan -restaurant started in the legendary premises at marmoripiha. so in the Fall of 2017 Marmoripiha was open to the public after 20 years of been closed from the public!