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Parliament House

eduskuntatalo Standing on Arcadia Hill, Parliament House welcomes visitors to Helsinki with its monumental appearance. Parliament House has been part of Finland’s national landscape and identity since 1931. It was designed and built by Finns and is a place where Finns work for the common good.

After the Finnish Diet was replaced by a unicameral Parliament in the parliamentary reform of 1906, a session hall was needed to accommodate the entire 200-member Parliament. The House of the Estates and the House of the Nobility, where the Diet had met, were too small for the new Parliament. A competition was held to design a new Parliament House. The winning entry, submitted by Eliel Saarinen, proposed Observatory Hill as the site of the new building. The project was not implemented, however, and Parliament had to meet in rented premises: first the auditorium at the Fire Brigade building in Keskuskatu from 1907 to 1910 and then the Heimola building at the corner of Hallituskatu (nowadays Yliopistonkatu) and Vuorikatu from 1911 to 1930. Both these buildings were torn down in the 1960s.

In 1924 a new competition was organized. It was won by the architectural firm of Borg–Sirén–Åberg with a proposal called Oratoribus (“For the Orators”). Johan Sigfrid Sirén (1889–1961) was mainly responsible for preparing the proposal and was given the task of designing Parliament House. The building was constructed in 1926-1931 and was offcially inaugurated on 7 March 1931.

A work of art in the centre of the city

Parliament House stands by itself on Arcadia Hill, but this was not the intention of the town planners or the architect. Their idea was for a group of public buildings to form a new Independence Square, paralleling the old Senate Square. Nothing came of this plan, however.

Parliament House was designed in the classic style of the 1920s. The exterior is reddish Kalvola granite and the facade is lined by fourteen columns with Corinthian capitals.

Built as a monument to Finnish independence and democracy, Parliament House is a complete work of art in which architecture, industrial design, workmanship and art form a harmonious whole. The interior is also classical for the most part, but functionalism and art deco are visible in some details.

The entire project was conducted under the direction of J.S. Sirén, who also designed the furniture in the most important rooms as well as the lighting fixtures and many other details. Furniture was also designed by Arttu Brummer, Werner West, Elsa Arokallio, Rafael Blomstedt, Birger Hahl, Arvo Muroma, Hugo Borgström and Elna Kiljander. Textile artists included Maija Kansanen, Greta Skogster, Eva Anttila, Eva Brummer and Marianne Strengell. Sculp-tures were provided by Gunnar Finne, Carl Wilhelms, Johannes Haapasalo and Hannes Autere. Painted decora-tions were designed by Bruno Tuukkanen. The aim was to use primarily Finnish materials. Most of the furniture is made of stained flamy and curly birch, oak and walnut. South American rosewood was used in the Session Hall and the Speaker’s Room, however.

Decoration according to purpose

The décor reflects the building’s own internal hierarchy: the more important the function, the more impressive the surroundings. Each floor also has its own special character. Parliament House was thoroughly renovated in the 1980s according to plans prepared by the architectural firm of Pitkänen–Laiho–Raunio. The first floor contains the main lobby, the restaurant, the newspaper room, the Speaker’s reception rooms and various offices. The floor in the main lobby is greenish Lohja limestone. At both ends of the lobby are marble staircases leading up to the fifth floor. The stairs are white Italian calacata marble, the pillars arabescata and the landings grey Silesian marble and calacata. The yellow walls at the entrances to the elevators and the light-grey walls in the marble staircases are stucco lustro.

The second or main floor is centred around the Session Hall. Its galleries have seats for the public, the media and diplomats. Also located on this floor are the Hall of State, the cafeteria, the Speaker’s Corridor and the Government’s Corridor. The floor and door jambs in the Hall of State are made of Kolmården marble from Sweden, while the wall recesses and floor inlays are calacata marble. The walls in the entrance way are green stucco marble, as are the columns in the cafeteria and the Speaker’s Corridor. Located along the Speaker’s Corridor are rooms for the Speaker, the Deputy Speakers, the Speaker’s Council and permanent staff. Along the Government’s Corridor are the Government Meeting Room and Reception Room, the Prime Minister’s Room and the Grey Room, which is intended for the use of women MPs. The third floor includes committee rooms and rooms for the committee secretariat as well as the Minutes Office and facilities for the media. The fourth floor is reserved for committees. Its largest rooms are the old Grand Committee Room and the Finance Committee Room. The fifth floor contains meeting rooms and offices for the parliamentary groups. Additional offices for the parliamentary groups are located on the sixth floor, along with facilities for the media.

The expansion of Parliament House

An architectural competition for the expansion of Parliament House was held in 1970. A three-part expansion was completed in 1978 on the basis of plans prepared by the architectural firm of Pitkänen–Laiho–Raunio. Wings with offices for MPs were added on both sides of Parliament House, in Buildings a and b, which have only two floors above ground. Building a also contains rooms for receiving delegations and an auditorium, while a sauna and swimming pool are located in Building b. The most visible part of the expansion is the semicircular Building c, which is clad in brass sheets. The Library of Parliament and the Parliamentary Office’s Administrative Department are located here.

Building d formerly belonged to the Association of Finnish Cities and was acquired by Parliament in the 1980s. Designed by Hilding Ekelund and completed in 1952, the building includes the Parliament Information Office and rooms for the committee secretariat. All the parts of Parliament House are connected to one another by means of underground passages.

The Audit Committee and the State Audit Office occupy rented premises at Antinkatu 44.

New annex

Parliament’s new annex was completed in spring 2004 on the “Little Parliament” lot. Including underground floors the building has 11 storeys with a gross floor space of about 17,200 square metres. In September 2004 a visitors' centre opened on the first floor, with its own entrance facing Mannerheimintie.

The Grand Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee meet in the new annex. It also houses the EU secretariat, the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman and the International Department. Floors three to six are reserved for mps and their assistants. Some mps and assistants still use offices that were built in the 1970s. Thanks to the new annex, assistants now have their own rooms. The annex has a 250-seat auditorium, conference rooms and a restaurant.

The annex, designed by the architectural firm of Helin & Co, forms a link between the city centre and the Etu-Töölö district. It consists of two sections. The higher section is triangular in shape and has a dark brick exterior. It complements the buildings on the northern side of the Kamppi district and extends the surface of the Hankkija building towards Parliament House.

The lower curved section is connected to the themes of Parliament’s earlier stages of construction and to the Museum of Contemporary Art on the other side of Mannerheimintie. The walls at both ends are made of Kalvola granite, the material of the main building. The large curving glass surface on the north side, which forms a conical section, is part of a double facade structure. The décor is characterized by the use of Finnish wood and floors covered in granite from different parts of the country.

Parliament’s art collection

The interior of Parliament House is graced by works of art. Parliament has over a thousand works in its collection. The best-known works are the five bronze sculptures by Wäinö Aaltonen in the Session Hall – “The Pioneer”, “The Toil of Thought”, “The Future”, “Faith” and “The Harvester” – as well as a painting by Pekka Halonen called “Logging” (1925) in the old Grand Committee Room.

Parliament’s art collection also includes portraits of past Speakers, beginning with the old Diet, works received from abroad, prize-winning sketches in competitions and permanent works of art in Parliament House. Most of the works in Parliament’s collection represent modern Finnish art, however. The collection has been expanded since 1980. The acquisitions consist mainly of graphics but also include sculptures, paintings, textiles and photos.
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Guided Tours

Guided tours are available from Monday to Friday from 9.00 a.m. to 4.15 p.m. (not during plenary sessions). The tours require prebooking.

Parliamentary services
Parliament - from Several Perspectives
Useful links