Check out the interesting history of the house

You are here: Home / Korundi house of culture

The building now housing the Korundi House of Culture was originally an old post bus depot dating back to 1933. The modifications and expansion completed in 2009 and 2010 were designed by architect Juhani Pallasmaa. He also had a hand in the design of the Rovaniemi Art Museum, which has been in the old depot since 1986. Korundi opened on the 25th of May 2011.

The old post bus depot is one of very few buildings in Rovaniemi that survived the Second World War. After the war, the building was expanded using bricks from ruins all over Rovaniemi. Korundi successfully marries local history with modern, functional and aesthetically interesting architecture.

The acoustics of the concert and multi-purpose hall in the inner yard of Korundi were designed by the Finnish consulting company Akukon. The hall is also suitable for recording sessions as well as audiovisual presentations and recording sessions.

The core of Korundi’s operations is formed by two nationally significant and internationally notable art organisations: the Lapland Chamber Orchestra and the Rovaniemi Art Museum. Korundi’s premises can also be rented for various events, for example.

The total floor area of the building is 5,300 m².


A few words from the architect

Collage and montage are among the most pivotal methods in contemporary art and cinema. Collage combines often unrelated images and fragments to form a synthesis that conveys a meaning completely independent of the original images. Montage, on the other hand, is a cinematic method of joining together different shots to form a narrative whole.

The architecture of Korundi blends the structures, aesthetics and atmospheres of the old industrial building with the modern elements of the art museum and concert hall. The aim has been to create an architectural discourse where both sides – the brickbuilding dating back to the war years and the contemporary architecture of our time – have their own distinctive voice. This montage draws a parallel between the industrial environment of the past and modern cultural activities. As the post bus depot has no particular architectural value (it is an important part of the cityscape and has historical and sentimental value), sections of the building have been used as parts in the architectural collage by tearing down, modifying and supplementing them with new elements. For example, most of the windows in the art museum section have been walled up to maximise the area available for artworks. However, traces of the old windows have been left in the recesses of the wall, the supports of crane rails still adorn the pillars, large glass surfaces have been installed in the garage doorways facing the yard, and so on. The original depot building is of course a collage in itself, as it was built from bricks collected from the war-mangled ruins of Rovaniemi.


The architecture of Korundi blends the structures, aesthetics and atmospheres of the old industrial building with the modern elements of the art museum and concert hall.

Since the 1970s, the ideal for new exhibition spaces for modern and contemporary art has been a white cube free of material constraints and any feeling of gravity. However, all the best-known historical art museums have their own tangible feel and colour scheme, and viewers rarely contemplate moving the works into a purely white room. I believe that a white exhibition space is best suited for displaying conceptual art pieces, and in my experience, art looks best in spaces where the viewers feel comfortable. Generally speaking, it could be said that for creating exhibitions and viewing artworks, many of the best exhibition halls in the world are former industrial facilities (for example, DIA Beacon in northern New York, Temporary Contemporary in Los Angeles and Tate Modern Art Gallery in London). Old industrial facilities usually carry a sense of space, functional ambiguity, material presence, randomness and age that enriches the experience of viewing art.

The joint lobby of the art museum and concert hall was designed to have glass walls and a glass ceiling to make it feel like an outdoor and indoor space at the same time. The location of the joint facilities at the back of the garage yard has defined the functional anatomy of the entire building. The concert hall with its glass canopy indicates the new entrance into the building when viewed from afar.

Concert hall

The pivotal goal when designing the interior of the concert hall was to create “visual acoustics”

The concert hall was conceptualised as a minimalist “music box” – the relative low number of seats (340) enabled the entirely rectangular shape, the acoustic properties of which have been fine-tuned with wall and ceiling materials and textures as well as glass sound reflection sheets. The pivotal goal when designing the interior of the concert hall was to create “visual acoustics”. The warm-toned space divided by panels and battens is reminiscent of the interior of an aged string instrument.
The colour motif of the acoustic cabinets, which was designed in co-operation with artist and Professor Jorma Hautala creates a kind of “visual music” in the hall. However, it naturally subsides when the orchestra begins to play.

The outer surfaces of the concert hall were originally designed to be made of richly profiled wood, but due to the cost of the wood, which would have required the facades to be fireproofed by means of sprinklers, the material was replaced with a cheaper alternative, Corten steel. However, the weathered steel blends the new concert hall with the crude atmosphere of the former depot.

Juhani Pallasmaa, Architect SAFA, Professor


In 1983, the trustees of the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation decided to donate an art collection to the city of Rovaniemi. The donation was made on the condition that the city would provide appropriate exhibition and storage facilities for the collection. The north section of the 1930s post bus depot in the centre of Rovaniemi was selected as the location of the museum.

The main part of the depot is one of the few brick buildings to have survived the war in Rovaniemi. Thus, despite its unremarkable architecture, the building possesses both historical and emotional value. Many locals no doubt remember Vikke the Gypsy who rummaged through the gutted ruins with his horse and cart collecting the bricks for the extension, which was to be refurbished for museum activities. The building itself is therefore a kind of museum which preserves the bricks that survived the wartime devastation of Rovaniemi.

The building itself is therefore a kind of museum which preserves the bricks that survived the wartime devastation of Rovaniemi.

The refurbishment involved converting the garage into complete art museum facilities: an exhibition space for the permanent collection, a space for temporary exhibitions, offices, storage space and facilities for preparing exhibitions. The exterior was modified slightly so as to express the building’s new cultural function. Even during planning, it soon became clear that there was insufficient space, particularly for storage and exhibition preparation. However, it was hoped that the museum would shortly acquire additional facilities once the remaining bus maintenance workshops were moved elsewhere.

Due to the limited width of the building and the heavy concrete structure of its intermediate floor, a narrow little annex was built in the yard to accommodate the stairs, the lift and the ventilation machinery.

The building meets modern museum standards in terms of air-conditioning and temperature and humidity control. The air vents are located in the floor and roof structures. The artificial lighting fixtures include both indirect general lighting and spotlighting for individual works.

The main exhibition space was lit by specially constructed skylights, which also improved the exterior profile creating an appropriate museum look. The skylights were positioned on the sides of the building in such a way that the walls extend upwards into the skylights which makes the rather low peripheries of the space seem higher - an important psychological detail. In the ground floor exhibition area, the steel doors of the garage were replaced with upward-facing windows, which also yield a kind of skylight effect.

Only minor alterations were made to the street façade. The new narrow “slice” of an annex has changed the appearance of the yard. When the entire garage building is eventually renovated for cultural use, the grim atmosphere and proportions of the yard can be remedied by means of new structures. Plans include an auditorium building in the northwest corner of the site, which would complete the U-shape of the whole, enclosing the yard and insulating it from the noise of the nearby motorway.

The main entrance is flanked by a kind of minimalist sculpture, an abstract assemblage composed of granite columns, which both provides a visual emblem for a cultural building and creates a miniature entrance courtyard on the pavement. The sculpture juxtaposes different types of granite and varying degrees of polish, producing a tension between symmetry and asymmetry. A narrow strip of brass is used to highlight the ornamental character of the columns. The columns are also featured in the museum logo.

Galleries intended for modern art tend to be designed in homogeneous, immaterial white. In Rovaniemi Art Museum, by contrast, materials were chosen with an eye to creating a more traditional museum atmosphere: warm and cosy hues, as opposed to neutral and cold laboratory colours. The contrast between the old, crudely constructed brick building and the delicate modern components was pursued in a collagist spirit – after all, the building itself is a collage of Rovaniemi’s prewar buildings.

The main exhibition space was lit by specially constructed skylights, which also improved the exterior profile creating an appropriate museum look.

The interior walls have all been rendered and painted white, with the exception of the stairway area, where the bricks of what used to be the exterior wall have been left in view. The ceilings have been panelled in Lappish timber made of dead standing pine, and the ground floor is surfaced with grey-green Lappish marble. The exhibition space upstairs has brick-coloured tile floors.

To eliminate a narrow impression, the annex (which is just 350cm wide) has been opened and extended in many different ways in both vertical directions. Storage space for graphic art has been provided close to the café, using a sliding wall solution. Other works are stored in the north end of the first floor. They are mounted on sliding wall units and are available for research purposes.

In order to make the facility appear more spacious, various visual links have been designed between the different rooms and spaces.

The building was opened in 1986.
Name and logo

Korundi House of Culture was named through a contest held in March 2009. Nearly 700 suggestions were submitted for the contest. The winning name was KORUNDI (CORUNDUM), which was suggested by Rovaniemi resident Einerakel Pulju.

Korundi (corundum) is also a mineral found in Lapland, which is known as the second hardest mineral in the world. Ruby and sapphire are part of the corundum group. In fact, the best corundums have been found in Lapland. Moreover, a star formation can be produced in a corundum by grinding and polishing the stone, which is why corundums are sometimes appropriately called “Stars of Lapland”. Perhaps the new cultural centre will serve as a kind of artistic grinding machine and create new cultural corundums, pure and polished Stars of Lapland.

Einerakel Pulju

The jury felt that the suggestion perfectly meets the requirements set by the contests. The name is appealing and unique, and cannot be mistaken for the name of some other cultural building. The name is also international, and reflects the jewellery box shape of the concert hall and the entire future colour scheme of the building

Logo contest

The Rovaniemi Art Museum and the Lapland Chamber Orchestra initiated a contest for the design of the KORUNDI logo in 2009 immediately after the winner of the naming contest had been selected. The contest was held between the students of the University of Lapland’s Faculty of Art. 28 students submitted a total of 30 suggestions for the contest. The panel of judges unanimously selected student Mika Junna's submission RYTMI (RHYTHM) as the winner.

The panel felt that the design was modern, clear and dynamic. The text-based logo is timeless and can be used in many contexts. The members of the panel also saw opportunities for an animated logo in digital media. The colour also received praise.

A separate colourful logo was designed for art education activities.

The creator of the winning logo, Mika Junna, gave the following grounds for his design:

“The idea was to create a modern, strong and easily distinguishable visual identifier. The basis for the design is a grotesque logotype modified for the purposes of the logo. The rounded and clean shapes are based on traditional template fonts (e.g. Standardograph) used by designers and architects. The word Korundi forms the logotype and the element above it. In other words, the upper element comprises parts of the letters in the word. The logo does not have a single, fixed form, so it can change and evolve with various added captions and text. Thanks to the strong shapes and identifiable colour, the variations of the logo will still maintain coherence. I avoided incorporating shapes pointing to jewels or jewellery into the logo, as they would have taken the connotations too far from a centre of cultural activities. The logo represents rhythm, which is one of the most important elements in art and music. It creates a vibrant and positive image of the facility’s operations. The turquoise colour used in the logo is seen to represent creativity and renewal in colour psychology. The colour is also often present in jewels, which creates a link to the word “korundi”, i.e. corundum. The tone suits the colour scheme of the old post bus depot and the new concert hall.”

Logo contest