• Pohjolankatu, Photo: Joni Rousku
  • Puu-Vallila, Photo: Joni Rousku
  • Puu-Vallila, Photo: Joni Rousku
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Wooden house districts in Helsinki

Helsinki expanded rapidly in the early 1900s. Several working-class wooden house districts were developed to ease the considerable housing shortage. Many of these neighbourhoods were demolished in the 1960s and 1970s, but at the same time the remaining wooden house districts were protected.

The formerly working-class neighbourhoods then transformed into middle-class neighbourhoods favoured by urban bohemians, complete with corner bars, cafés and small street-level shops.

The districts of Kumpula and Käpylä have annual block parties, and other wooden house districts are also very lively with flea markets and urban farms, for example. Each with their own unique atmospheres, Puu-Vallila, Puu-Käpylä, Kumpula and Toukola are now among the most desirable residential districts in Helsinki.

Puu-Vallila

Puu-Vallila was the first wooden house district to be developed specifically for the working class. It was built between the industrial areas of Vallila and Sörnäinen in two phases, in the 1910s and 1920s.

The ideals of the 1910s can be seen in the small plots lining the narrow roads that follow the natural terrain. Behind the wooden houses with their mansard roofs are small gardens and outbuildings. The architects, Karl Hård af Segerstad, Armas Lindgren, and Jussi and Toivo Paatela, were well known in their time.

Popular attractions in Puu-Vallila today include the traditional local bar Pikku-Vallila and the Päiväkahvibaari coffee bar run by the Helsingin kahvipaahtimo roastery.

Puu-Käpylä

The Puu-Käpylä wooden house district was developed along the railway lines to the north of the city centre in the early 1920s. Designed by Martti Välikangas and built out of log elements, the houses reflected the British ideals of a garden suburb.

The focus was on providing a good environment for families with children that was close to nature and included gardens for growing produce. Indeed, Puu-Käpylä is often mentioned as one of the best residential districts in Finland.

The main boulevard through Puu-Käpylä, Pohjolankatu, has trams running along it and features a lovely traditional canopy kiosk and park at one end, creating a delightful milieu for enjoying coffees. The adjacent restaurant Puisto in the Park Hotel is also ideal for satisfying larger appetites.