Minimalist Architecture – Helsinki and Tallinn

When my husband and I travel, we love to walk the streets of foreign cities and admire the architecture. We’ve seen it all: from the Art Nouveau apartment houses of Prague, to the neon skyscrapers in Hong Kong, to the Gothic cathedrals in almost every European country. What we don’t see very often: minimalist buildings.

Therefore, I was delighted to encounter some lovely examples on a recent trip to Helsinki and Tallinn (a 2-hour ferry ride across the Gulf of Finland). After spending the last several months gazing at elaborate turrets, intricate stonework, and churches carved with every manner of saint, sinner, and gargoyle, the Scandinavian architecture was a breath of fresh air. The white stucco, simple silhouettes, and unadorned facades of these buildings made my minimalist heart sing!

So today, I’d simply like to share some snaps from my trip. I hope you enjoy the minimalist eye candy, and perhaps be inspired to visit these beautiful cities!

minarch

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26 comments to Minimalist Architecture – Helsinki and Tallinn

  • I’ve always liked the Scandinavian style. Sure, nothing makes your eyes pop like an enormous building with every carved curlique and supernatural being known to man adorning it, but it’s like a riot in your brain as opposed to the calming effect of more minimal buildings. And I do love the white/lye washing on those building!

    • miss minimalist

      Hi, The Simple Poppy! You’re right about the “calming effect” — and I love how minimalist buildings put the focus on the structure and the space, rather than the detail.

  • Liz

    Last summer we were on a Baltic cruise that took us, amongst other places, to Tallinn and Helsinki. Thanks for the unexpected reminder of such an amazing vacation!

    We, too, love soaking in the architecture of a place, and we loved the mix of minimalism and medieval in both cities.

    Here are our pics from our days in those cities, if you’re interested in more!
    Tallinn: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lizpaton/sets/72157623095162186/
    Helsinki: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lizpaton/sets/72157623095464350/

  • We got married in the church of the first pic :) It’s quite serene, so big and white.

  • Cari

    I enjoyed the ornate churches and buildings in Europe when I was stationed there, but I also enjoy and appreciated the simpler ones. Thank you for sharing these photos!

  • Those all look beautiful!

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  • Viktoria

    Growing up and living all my life in Sweden I suppose I take this esthetic for granted. I certainly never thought of it as minimalist, but of course it is.

    The style of church that´s in your middle top photo is sometimes called a “Tegner barn” after the 19th Century bishop Esias Tegner who had these built all over Sweden to replace the old, small, dark medieval churches. The idea was to make them spacious and bright to bring people´s spirits in to the new, enlightened age, as he saw it.

    My grandfather was a verger in one of these churches when I was a child and it was my playground. Thank´s for reminding me of those happy days!

    • miss minimalist

      Viktoria, thank you for the information on the “Tegner barns” — how interesting! Sounds like a beautiful place to play as a child. :-)

  • Kai

    what a surprise to open up your blog today – you were in Tallinn! I´m an estonian, living in germany for one year… it´s nice that you visited Tallinn. Helsinki´s really cool too, i lived there for 6 months some years ago.
    :-)

  • I am so desperate to go to these Baltic places, and like Liz I would love to do a Baltic Cruise, and see Tallinn. I went to St Petersburg working about 20 years ago, and loved the wide streets and the clean white building, and these have that spacious look.
    Minimalism is fantastic!

  • Jens

    The Huf Haus concept in Germany shows minimalism in it’s striking designs.

    http://www.huf-haus.com/gb/intro.html

  • Mia

    @MM
    Lovely minimalist buildings, thanks for sharing!

    Something I find strange about myself though is that even though I prefer minimalist to non-minimalist interiors, I generally prefer ornate facades and exteriors to minimalist ones. That’s why I love old buildings in Vienna, Prague, Paris etc.

    @Jens
    Wow, those HUF hauses look great!

    • miss minimalist

      Hi Mia! I enjoy admiring those ornate buildings, too — and I think it’s really cool when those old buildings have spare, minimalist interiors. :-)

  • Jens

    @Mia: They are great aren’t they?

    Here’s a YouTube link to see one built in England:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBQup22gkv0

  • […] don’t even want that kind of lifestyle.” They see minimalists with peripatetic lifestyles who travel all over the world and say, “that’s cool, but I don’t want to do […]

  • MelD

    Although I know the Amish were originally Swiss, I’m convince the Shakers must have had a strong Swiss influence, too, the clean, perfectionist, efficient minimalism of their style. Here in Switzerland, there are many very old buildings (usually less ornamental and eminently practical – like the Swiss) that are beautifully and extremely modernly and minimistically renovated to show the best of the old with the straight simplicity of the new – remember, Le Corbusier was Swiss, too!! You’d have a field day here – but you’d have to bypass all the touristy chalet stuff!!!
    PS the Swiss are famous for their modern design anyway but you’d be surprised how many ordinary Swiss furnish their homes very minimalistically, a leftover from the simple farming families they come from, where nothing unnecessary or decorative is common.

  • Tina

    I don’t like to look at most of the home decor magazines because things look too cluttered to me. If we lived in a smaller place, there is more I would get rid of. If lots of people are coming over, I ask them to each bring a chair. More art supplies, clothes, and books go every week. I am looking at some books to get rid of right now. As my kids take more of their things, I will have fewer bookcases. We will use one as a display case for photos.

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