Department of Mechanical Engineering

Facilities for technology education

The first home for technology education in Helsinki was located in the centre of the city in Domus Litonii. The building remains today in near-original condition at Aleksanterinkatu 50, next to the Stockmann department store. In 1877, the school moved to Hietalahti.
Maalaus Polyteknillisen opiston uudesta päärakennuksesta vuonna 1877.
The main building of the Polytechnic Institute in Hietalahti, completed in 1877.

Helsinki Technical School was first based in several rooms of a stonework building located at Aleksanterinkatu 50, rented from upholsterer Jonas Litonius from 1848 onward.

The building also served as quarters for the master of the workshop, the school's director, an attendant and a laboratory orderly. The Manufactory Board also kept a room in the building. When the workshops were shut down in 1858, their facilities were turned to teaching use. The other living quarters were also gradually taken over by the school itself.

As the number of subjects taught increased, so did the school's need for facilities. By the mid-1850s, the Manufactory Board was already looking for a building to rent for the school's use. The fire hazards posed by the chemistry laboratory meant that the building had to be of stone construction. The question of constructing a new building for the school was first raised in 1859.

Following the death of A. O. Saelan in 1874, the facilities he occupied were also taken over by the school, by which point the only other occupant was the building's owner, Jonas Litonius's son F. L. Litonius.

The Manufactory Board made a proposal to the Senate regarding an expansion to the Litonius building on 18 January 1861 with the primary intention of building an additional floor. The decision was made to fund the project with the money in the estate of Kristiina Loviisa Haggrén, the late widow of industrialist and city official Georg Haggrén. An imperial decree affirming this use of funds was given in April of 1862.

The plan to construct the additional floor was soon abandoned. The Domus Litonii remains largely in its original state at Aleksanterinkatu 50, next to the Stockmann department store in the centre of Helsinki.

Anders Olivier Saelan and the founding of a new profession

Part 1.4. Every Finnish engineer could be considered an heir to the ideals and skill of Anders Olivier Saelan. Saelan is Finland's first domestic representative of the engineer's trade, the founder of the profession in the country.

Who was A.O. Saelan?
Anders Olivier Saelanin muotokuva

A dedicated building at the edge of town

As early as 1 May 1862, an imperial decree ordered an estimate to be made for an entirely new school building. Several sites had been suggested: first the area bordered by Yrjönkatu, Annankatu and Simonkatu; then Aleksanterinkatu 27, where the Student Union of the University of Helsinki would later build what is today known as the Old Student House. Other sites considered included a plot of land on Katajannokka as well as the land where the Bank of Finland is located today. Ultimately, the Helsinki magistrate signed over an area beside the Hietalahti Market in the Kurki block as the site of a new building.

The new building was designed by Frans Anatolius Sjöström, who during 1869–1871 had received the education needed to serve as the school's teacher of architecture following the death of W. L. Bähr. Sjöström had previously studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm with great success.

Designing the building was made a part of qualifying for the position of architecture teacher. The Manufactory Board tasked Sjöström with studying the particulars of school buildings during a trip abroad and with drawing up a general plan for the construction. Sjöström submitted his application for the vacancy on 26 June 1869 along with a request for a travel stipend for rounding out his education, noting that he would be willing to accept the position if the government paid for two years of studies abroad.

The Manufactory Board accepted the application as soon as it was received and presented the matter to the Senate's financial department the next day. The Senate, for its part, assented to keeping the position vacant for the time being, with part of the funds intended for the teacher's salary redirected to Sjöström as a stipend. Meanwhile, engineer Endre Lekve took responsibility for teaching the basics of architecture for a partial salary, and advanced courses were cancelled. Sjöström's grant was extended by four months in June 1871.

The public buildings administration presented an itemised budget for the construction of the new Polytechnic School building in December 1872. As the move to the new building was eventually delayed, F.L. Litonius allowed the school to extend its stay in the Litonius building with the lease largely unchanged.

The new main building was completed in 1877, with a total of 4 300 m2 in floor space in its original configuration. In addition to the school itself, the building housed a number of government offices for education, industry and geology.

Rise of the Hietalahti campus

The school quickly ran out of space and the building underwent many renovations to expand it. An extension designed by Carl Gustaf Nyström and completed in 1904 added 3 600 m2 of floor space and expanded the school building to the edges of the lot limited by Bulevardi and Antinkatu (present-day Kalevankatu). The geologists' office was also moved to a new separate building on Bulevardi.

Until the 1920s, the chemical laboratory was the only laboratory in the Polytechnic Institute and later Helsinki University of Technology with proper facilities. The old chemical laboratory was completed in 1877 and the so-called new laboratory in 1898. The new main building did not include technical laboratories before the building reached its present-day form during 1926–1928, when two floors and 2 100 m2 of space were added to the central wing of the building, as designed by Armas Lindgren.

Mechanical engineering laboratories for the school would not be constructed until after the end of the First World War.

History of mechanical engineering in Finland

Diplomi Pariisin maailmannäyttelystä vuodelta 1900.

Finnish mechanical engineers tour the world

Part 1.6. By the latter half of the 19th century, Finland was closely connected with the scientific community of Europe. Engineers and scientists made regular trips from Finland to major European hubs to make connections and to study the state-of-the-art.

Department of Mechanical Engineering

The German teachers in Helsinki

Part 1.8. Europe faced a consistent shortage of technology teachers throughout the 1800s. As there were not enough teachers to meet demand, teacher recruitment became a bottleneck for development, especially in places like Finland at the periphery of Europe.

Department of Mechanical Engineering
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