a mezza voce" - architectural design of the Helsinki Music Centre

The Helsinki Music Centre walls speak in an undertone, leaving space for music. Openness, encounters and interaction are the key concepts in the architect


The architectural design competition for the Helsinki Music Centre was won in 2000 by the Turku-based LPR Architects Ltd., with their proposal "a mezza voce". The architects involved were Marko Kivistö, Mikko Pulkkinen, and Ola Laiho. In total, 30 LPR architects contributed to the design of Helsinki Music Centre.


In an undertone

With their proposal for the architecture of Helsinki Music Centre, the designers of the "a mezza voce" proposal wanted to harmonize the scenes in the Töölönlahti area. An inherent part of its surroundings, the body of Helsinki Music Centre is aligned with both Finlandia Hall and the Parliament Building.

The highest parts of the building are placed as close to the green zone as possible to give an impression of public buildings in a park. On Mannerheimintie and Töölönlahdenkatu Streets, the green, pre-patinated copper façade connects with the nearby architecture and public parks.

Made of glass, the other side of the building displays the inside functions of the Music Centre and connects the building to the newer architecture in the south and east. The Parliament Building is part of the layout plan for the surroundings, with an open view down from the Parliament steps toward the public parks. 

The green roof over the lower part of the building tilts to the south, making space for the unique architecture of the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art.

From the beginning of the project, openness was the characteristic that was sought,in order to create interaction between music professionals, students, and visitors. The Concert Hall–the vineyard-style core of the building–can be entered through the Main Foyer around the hall. The crater-like Concert Hall opens via the sound-insulating glass walls to the foyer and lobby, in daytime used as a café and exhibition rooms. 

In addition to the Concert Hall, there are five smaller halls for roughly 140-400 people. The acoustics in each hall have been designed to serve the function or purpose of each hall.The ground level houses the Concert Hall stage, the rehearsal rooms, and the loading area.The lower levels accommodate the greenrooms for the orchestras, located around two light wells. The Music Centre and orchestra offices are situated as a separate unit in the upper parts of the foyer. 

The Sibelius Academy premises, both classrooms and offices, are grouped in seven storeys around the inner court facing Karamzin Park. The two lowest storeys accommodate the Academy studio facilities and an open Music Library just across the Lower Lobby.

 LPR-Arkkitehdit Oy


“A dusky and quiet building site is a mysterious place. In the midst of the city buzz, its tranquillity is a promise of something to look forward to. A place for rest. In the daytime, a building site is a hectic and sometimes exhausting place. Come the evening, the noise and toil calm down for a moment. Even the incompleteness seems to be at rest, not asking for anything. The Music Centre has a mission. A mission to create impulses. In physics, an impulse is defined as the integral of a force with respect to time. Derived from the Latin "pulsus", an impulse also denotes pulse, movement, impetus, stimulus, whim, and even incitement.

[...] If we want to have an influence or create movement and change, the impulses must come from within. This is probably a central concept when we want to recognize, create, and add to the beauty around us.

[...] Impulses must help us to make the good visible and tangible. Otherwise, goodness is just an abstraction.

Impulses that are born deep within live longer and gravitate towards the depths of other people.

[...] What we need is more committed people that are devoted to the light they receive. These people make the good and the beautiful touch all of us. We usually consider something interesting when it is the result of the enthusiasm and invigoration of these people.

The light becomes a surface to reach for, something we want to touch. Because we all want to be reached for and touched. And these desires are manifested in the safe, reliable, and genuine spaces that give us the courage to reach out.”

Marko Kivistö , architect, Helsinki Music Centre

Marko Kivistö: Hiljainen huone - Musiikkitalon arkkitehdin muistikirjasta (2011)

Kirjapaja, Helsinki

Abridged from the chapter titled "Impulssi". English translation by Päivi Tikkanen.