The History of the YWCA Building
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The History of the YWCA Building

Finland’s first independent woman architect Wivi Lönn designed this house for YWCA of Finland.
Photo: The YWCA of Finland

This text was published in 2008 when YWCA's building celebrated its 80th anniversary. 


Miss Helka reminisces

In the year 2008, the Y.W.C.A house on Pohjoinen Rautatienkatu in Helsinki will be 80 years old. The building has a colourful past, and it expects the coming years curiously because age seems to be of no matter to it. Let the beautiful and energetic birthday girl herself tell about her memories and phases of life:

“I thinks it is pretty easy to imagine me as an 80-year-old lady because there are some distinctive features about me being born in the 1920’s. However, I do not consider myself worn-out nor burnt-out because, in good care, I think I can manage many decades still. My façade has always been good-looking because I have been taken care of. My backside, however, had to undergo a slight makeover during the last decade, and my upstairs is presently being renovated – not that I would have anything seriously wrong with my upstairs; it just steams a bit too much sometimes because people go to sauna there. I also got myself new intestines in 2006.”

Lively household

“I used to be able to serve in so many ways: I have acted as a nursery, dormitory, bakery, laundry, as well as an office building. Now I am “just” a hotel, and have also expanded a bit towards Runeberginkatu. One has to follow the trends, however. I prefer being a modern and popular hotel than an empty museum. Of course I consider myself as a quite remarkable building: When I was younger, I got a lot of attention. I was, after all, the first building that some Finnish female organisation got to itself. In my opening, there was the president of Finland with his spouse, as well as the headmaster of the Helsinki University. Very few buildings meet that dignified people ever. The ceremony was performed by the Bishop of the city of Tampere, and the concluding speech was performed in Swedish by the Bishop of the city of Porvoo so I have been bilingual right from the beginning.”

“When one ages, people usually allow him or her to remember the past. I have had wonderful star moments but also some bluer, maybe even depressive, periods. I survived my latest blue period in the beginning of the last decade with the help of a certain young man. Another rather depressive period was during the Wars: Then, I got support, for example, from the other Nordic countries. And I also have to thank Maija Åkerlund who, during those difficult years, guided me.

Changing with the world

I have also aroused offence… Maybe it was some kind of a craze when I turned 50 because I wanted to have light beer rights to my restaurant. All of my owners at the Y.W.C.A did not approve of it because they cut me off. Nowadays, however, I have many foreign friends: During the last century I met a lot of Russians, and now people from Central Europe like to visit me. I have an ample bosom that can hug friends from all over the world. “Today, I have totally new clothes. They are designed by famous Finnish designers like Alvar Aalto, Harri Koskinen, and Petri Vainio. My facelift has been excellently performed by interior designers Gullstén & Inkinen. I have finally´become totally presentable.

Kaisa Halonen




In 1983 Helka played Hotel Budapest in Gorky Park because the American film crew wasn’t able to film in the Soviet Union. 

Photo: The YWCA of Finland

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Hotelli Helka

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