How did the Weilin&Göös Printing House become WeeGee
Professor Aarno Ruusuvuori designed the WeeGee building in the 1960s for Weilin & Göös printing company as their new printing house. Ruusuvuori’s printing house is a trademark of Finnish constructivism. It is a nationally notable architectural monument that has also received international acclaim. A miniature model of the building is located in the permanent exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Other famous buildings designed by Ruusuvuori include the churches in Hyvinkää and Tapiola as well as Paragon company’s printing house in Helsinki.
Weilin & Göös was established in Jyväskylä in 1872, but relocated to Helsinki soon afterwards. By the beginning of the 1960s, the rapid increase in production made it impossible to continue the printing operations in the centre of Helsinki. The printing house was transferred to a three-hectare lot in the small-scale industry area in Tapiola, owned by the Asuntosäätiö Foundation. Tapiola was located relatively close to Helsinki and the “light and tidy” industrial production of Weilin & Göös was seen as an appropriate addition to the surrounding natural environment.
The foundation for the design was the production process of the printing house, which required as much uninterrupted free space as possible. The machines and equipment needed to be arranged in a way that would allow the production process and logistics to run smoothly and efficiently. The number of supporting structures had to be kept to a minimum and the separating walls were to be light and easily movable. Printing work demanded plenty of steady light, but, on the other hand, the process could not be exposed to direct sunlight. Efficient utilisation of the large floor space permitted by the lot would require a two-storey solution.
Ruusuvuori proposed a solution that was based on serials, duplicates and geometry, which are characteristic of constructivism. The materials used included reinforced concrete and glass. Ruusuvuori first designed the structural basic unit: a 27 x 27 metre, two-storey single structure of reinforced concrete. The structural unit was divided into nine 9 x 9 metre squares on the first storey. The corners of the squares included a total of 16 pillars divided into 3 x 3 metre roof cassettes that supported a concrete beam grid (with a bearing capacity of over 2 tons/m2). The round concrete tower, with a diameter of three metres, rose through the middle square from the basement through the second storey and high over the roof. The reinforced concrete tile of the rooftop hung from this tower, supported by eight slanting beams. Therefore, the second storey, or the printing room, only included a single vertical prop per 729m2. The ventilation system was placed inside the tower (to avoid disturbance in the production space) and its machinery was located at the bottom of the tower.
The entire building was constructed by repeatedly multiplying this construction unit. Each of the designed four construction phases included a 54 x 54 metre square, which comprised four construction units. The unit was a realisation of the dialogue between opposites that was archetypal of Ruusuvuori’s architecture: light and heavy, glass and concrete.
Direct sunlight, harmful to printing production, was eliminated in the southern façade of the building by drawing the windows of the first storey in and placing the narrow window line of the second storey up under the slanting edge of the roof tiles. The entire northern façade of the building was made of glass, so that the process could gain maximum benefit from steady northern light. The large window panes were also significant to Ruusuvuori’s architectural philosophy. He wished to seamlessly incorporate the factory hall with the nature of Tapiola. The pine trees surrounding the building were therefore kept as intact as possible.
Two of the four construction phases in Ruusuvuori’s original design were carried out as he designed them. The first phase was completed in 1964 and the second was completed on the western side in 1966. Ruusuvuori was also chosen to design the third phase (or the head office) in the beginning of the 1970s. However, the new owner of the company demanded that the same office be responsible for both the design and construction of the expansion due to financial reasons. Ruusuvuori did not agree to this. Therefore, full responsibility for the third phase was assigned to the engineering office Bertel Ekengren, which did not continue Ruusuvuori’s architecture based on structural units. Consequently, Ruusuvuori fully dissociated himself from the “engineering part” of construction. The fourth phase was never fulfilled according to the original plan.
Weilin & Göös was transferred to WSOY in the 1990s. Consequently, the printing house operations at the Tapiola premises gradually came to an end. The building remained under Amer’s ownership and was leased, for example, to gyms. At this time, the city of Espoo took an interest in the building, and, after several phases, the building became the present-day museum and art centre of the city.
Intendant Sten Björkman, Espoo City Museum