Helsinki Airport Shares Fresh Perspectives on Design for Growth

Helsinki Airport shares insights into its current and future terminal projects, blending elegance with functionality and simplicity with an enriched passenger experience.

Helsinki Airport’s new South Pier opened for passengers and air traffic on Monday 10 July, with the first flight, operated by Finnair, departing to New York from gate 54. But before that opening day, 200 volunteer testers went through every inch of the new pier to ensure every detail was cleared for take-off.

South Pier Testing Day

“According to the feedback from the testers, the new extension is full of light, comfortable and a well-functioning part of the airport. It could be taken into use straight away after the test. Opening the south pier for air traffic is a unique moment in the history of the airport,” says Finavia’s Technical Director Henri Hansson.

Helsinki really considered the mix of “passenger” volunteers to ensure the new facilities suited a variety of passengers. That included getting feedback from disabled and limited mobility passengers, as well as older passengers and parents with small children.

One member of the test-traveller group, Reija Hassinen, participated in the terminal check to help overcome her fear of flying.

“I’ve always been nervous of flying and for that reason I’ve sought out situations where I can learn to be calm in the airport environment. Of course, it is also interesting to come see the new south pier as one of the very first groups,” Hassinen said.

Terminal testers recorded their impressions of the terminal experience on dedicated digital stations.

Finest Finnish Design

In addition to a number of modern passenger conveniences, including a moving walkway and ample power stations for productivity flyers, the new terminal is a showcase for the best of Finnish design. Uniquely decorative and functional furnishings are framed in light thanks to the generous 4,500 square meters of diagonal glass walls which also offer passengers an unobstructed view of the runway.

Passengers can rest between flights in Karuselli chairs designed by Yrjö Kukkapuro, Ilmari Tapiovaara’s Mademoiselle rocking chairs or Alvar Aalto’s arm chairs. The Pilke light fixtures are by Tuukka Halonen. The recliners and more traditional block seats have been designed by Kai Lindvall of PES-Architects, Finland.

A Grand Entrance

The new south terminal is only part of the ambitious plans ahead for Helsinki Airport. The management revealed details of the expansion of Terminal two this year, including its iconic entrance, which is scheduled to debut in 2020.

The winning proposal was created by a working group including architects SAFA Juho Grönholm, Antti Nousjoki and Samuli Woolston from ALA Architects. They were assisted by ALA Architects SAFA Lotta Kindberg, Pauliina Rossi and Petri Herrala as well as students of architecture David Gallo and Rachel Murray. Architects SAFA Pekka Leskelä and Mikko Suvisto from HKP were also involved, as well as Jukka Sirén from Ramboll Finland. Ramboll Finland’s Pekka Kuorikoski, Pekka Ahola, Juha Åberg, Rauno Laatikainen and Juho Suolahti participated in the project as consultants. VIZarch’s Petra Grísová, Vratislav Zíka and Jakub Frolík were responsible for the visualisations.

“Typographically speaking, airports are among the few new buildings of the modern era. Passengers flow through them in a controlled manner and their operations are process-like, but their look and atmosphere are always significant. The airport is a starting point for adventures and a place that wishes passengers welcome. And we haven’t forgotten about beauty and romance in the design of City Hall, either,” says Juho Grönholm, partner at ALA Architects.

The inspiration for the roof was Tapio Wirkkala’s Ultima Thule sculpture that is made of plywood used in aeroplanes, Finavia says.

The scope of the new project includes providing new multi-modal transport links which continue the airport’s focus on creating convenient connections beyond the capital. Airport Director Ville Haapasaari of Finavia says: “Helsinki Airport is already an important European air traffic hub and also one of the largest bus and train interchanges in Finland, offering road and sea links to Russia, Tallinn and the Nordic and Baltic countries.”

10 Fascinating Facts About Helsinki Airport’s Growth

Helsinki Airport Expansion Source: Finavia

Finavia shares 10 things you may not already know about the expansion plans underway:

  1. The terminal will be expanded by a total of 103,000 square metres. It corresponds to an area the size of the Linnanmäki amusement park in Helsinki.
  2. The total surface area of the terminal in 2020 will be more than 250,000 square metres. You could fit 10 Finnish Parliament Houses inside the terminal.
  3. The number of bridge gates for wide-body aircraft will be doubled from eight to 16.
  4. Baggage handling capacity will increase by 50 percent.
  5. The apron, meaning the aircraft parking areas and taxiways, will be renovated over an area of 450,000 square metres. The size of the construction site is equal to 90 football pitches.
  6. The airport’s total surface area is 1,800 hectares. If the airport were placed over the city of Helsinki, it would stretch from Kaisaniemi to Katajanokka and Töölö.
  7. With the development programme, 5,000 new, permanent jobs will be created at Helsinki Airport area.
  8. The employment impact during construction is 14,000 person-years.
  9. Finavia is investing 900 million euros in the development of Helsinki Airport.
  10. You can reach over 135 destinations all over the world directly from Helsinki Airport.

See: Timeline of Improvements at Helsinki Airport



Marisa Garcia

After working for sixteen years in aviation, specializing in aircraft interiors design and aviation safety equipment, and getting hands-on with aircraft cabins in hangars around the world, Marisa Garcia turned her expertise into industry insight. She has been reporting on aviation matters since 2014. Every day, she's putting words to work.

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