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Finnish National Theatre, Helsinki, Finland

The exterior of the oldest Finnish-speaking theatre in Helsinki does not resemble a theater at all. This huge granite building with red roofs is rather like a medieval king's residence than a theater. The building was built in the National Romantic style, which was common not only in Finland, but also in Scandinavia and Russia during the late 19th to early 20th centuries. Finnish National Theatre (Suomen Kansallisteatteri) was built in the style of medieval architecture as a response to the spread of industrialism.

The building of the Finnish National Theatre was built in the early twentieth century. It opened in 1902. The Finnish Theatre itself was founded in 1872 in the city of Pori by Kaarlo Bergbom jointly with his sister Emilie Bergbom. After construction of new theatre building in Helsinki the Finnish Theatre moved here and was renamed the Finnish National Theatre.

The new theater was built by design of architect Onni Tarjanne. It is located on the Rautatientori square (Rautatientori in Finnish means "Railway Square"). The surrounding buildings in comparison with the theater are modest and darker in color. This contrast emphasizes the splendor and majesty of the theatre’s building.

The theatre is built from granite and has tiled roofs. The main facade is decorated on both sides by two symmetrical towers. Triangular pediment crowns the middle part of the main facade. Despite the rough granite walls, the facade of the theater is decorated with detailed ornaments which give a certain level of elegance to the building. Arcades and arched windows and doors, in their turn, are adding luster to the building and making it look like a dollhouse.

Initially, the theater had one scene, but in 1954 the second one was built for the modern style performances. In 1976 and 1987, respectively, the third and fourth stages were opened: both are used for experimental productions. The fourth stage is located in a separate building not far from the main one. In sum, the theater has only 1100 seats. Inside the building the monument to the actress Ida Aalberg attracts special attention.

The theater is owned and operated by a private foundation and its special council. Finnish National Theatre has strict rules; in particular, it justifies the name "National Theatre": the performances staged here are only in Finnish, but the architecture of the building constantly attracts also foreign language visitors.

By Anna Pambukhchyan,


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