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Helsinki, Finland

We stumbled across this pavilion-like structure on a trip to Finland. As part of a pair of small annex buildings to the Helsinki Cathedral, the two forms flank each side of Senate Square, bookending a large set of stairs climbing to the plinth on which the iconic cathedral sits.

In context to the overall cathedral & square, these buildings seem cast in a supporting role to help frame and celebrate the larger elements around them. However, what intrigues us is that when viewed on their own they become wonderful independent follies in the city – architecture for the sake of architecture – a celebration of difference as the two stacked objects exploit their unique juxtaposition of massing, materiality and ornament.

It also makes us smile to see such a playful execution of scale & juxtaposition in an urban space earmarked for civic engagement. As stand-alone follies their object-ness supersedes the space within their walls, and in doing so helps empower them to become symbols for the city.

In our own practice as we work through additions and the process of grafting old architecture with new, objects like these remind us that we shouldn’t be reticent to celebrate difference. When done tastefully and intelligently, differences can help complement and celebrate one another in a way that might not have been evident on their own.