New Standards: Timber Houses Ltd. 1940-1955
Kristo Vesikansa, Philip Tidwell, Laura Berger
Garret Publications, 2021
Standardization in building is frequently deplored as monotonous and boring, but it persists as a recurring dream for architects aiming to harness the power of industrial production.
New Standards examines the conditions that affect standard, industrial and manufactured buildings by re-visiting a forgotten chapter of wood construction in post-war Finland. The story centers on the industrial enterprise Puutalo Oy [Timber Houses Ltd.], which was established in 1940 as part of Finland’s response to a refugee crisis brought about by war. In less than a decade, the company became one of the largest manufacturers of prefabricated wooden buildings in the world.
From 1940 to 1955, many thousands buildings were exported from Finland to sites on every inhabited continent, constructing a legacy of housing and urbanization that has been largely overlooked. Today, these wooden houses may be Finland’s most widespread architectural export. Situated at the intersection of architecture and industrial design, they use a limited range of components to achieve thousands of variations suited to different functional, climatic and cultural conditions.
The book offers a new perspective on this legacy through careful analysis of the ways in which these buildings and projects emerged from a rapidly changing political landscape. A series of commissioned essays bring forth exports to the Stalin-era Soviet Union and Cold War Berlin, as well as the company´s advertisements on the domestic front. These historical studies are complemented by contemporary images by acclaimed photographer Juuso Westerlund, which capture views of life in neighborhoods from Helsinki (Finland), Aarhus (Denmark) and Barranquilla (Colombia).