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Two Hearts in One House

The concert hall is a window into society, and the café is a gathering place for students and staff.

‘In this great new hall Helsinki has received a splendid concert hall, and as a banquet hall it is sure to be most adequate.’

  • Helsingin Sanomat 25 October 1931

‘I remember the wobbling of the chairs and the bumpy seats. They were comfortable enough when we were supposed to be practising… Russian herring tasted good. When we could afford it. And the Runeberg’s tortes. Were rock hard. Markus Lehtinen taught us how to moisten them with coffee before sticking our spoons in, otherwise they would fly to the floor.’

  • Ulla Raiskio in the Facebook R House Before and Now (‘R-talo ennen ja nyt’) group

‘That’s where I’d smoke to calm my nerves before an intimidating class or examinations…”

  • Kristiina Hohti in the Facebook R House Before and Now group

The concert hall of the new building was a window into society, as in the minds of the public the new Conservatory building was connected to the concert hall. The new building and its hall in particular were greatly anticipated, discussed and evaluated. When reporting on the building, the press mainly wrote about the concert hall. All public activities – whether a concert, a briefing, a theatre performance or something else – took place there. The concert hall was the public heart of the house.

The Conservatory restaurant was opened with the new building. On 23 October 1931, Uusi Suomi described the restaurant as fun and intimate and its kitchen as good. Over the decades, the restaurant’s proprietor and concept varied from an elegant restaurant with white tablecloths to a canteen more attractive to students. Many memories of studenthood are associated with the canteen. One memory in particular had to do with the menu on the wall, which was typed with moveable letters and how ‘every wisecracker got to fiddle with the menu…’  so the menu had, for example, fried you-know-what…’ Canteen, caff, diner, restaurant – whatever you call it, it has been the heart of the building in the reminiscences of the staff and students.

Thus one house has two hearts – the concert hall as the public heart of the house and the canteen as the internal heart.

The intimate and prestigious restaurant of the Conservatory Building in 1935.
The intimate and prestigious restaurant of the Conservatory Building in 1935. There were two entrances to the restaurant, one from the street and another from inside, through the passage hall along a long corridor. Helsinki City Museum. Photographer Olof Sundström.
Hustle and bustle at the Sibelius Academy Cafe Fenix in 1978. The green chairs preceded the red benches recycled from the burger restaurant Wimpy. Photographer Heikki Valkonen.
Hustle and bustle at the Sibelius Academy Cafe Fenix in 1978. The green chairs preceded the red benches recycled from the burger restaurant Wimpy. Photographer Heikki Valkonen.
Cafe Fenix in the 1980s.
Cafe Fenix in the 1980s. The tables and chairs were from a closed down burger restaurant. University of the Arts Helsinki / Sibelius Academy archive.
The University of the Arts R Building cafe in 2020 after the latest renovation.
The University of the Arts R Building cafe in 2020 after the latest renovation. University of the Arts Helsinki. Photographer Juho Papinniemi.

Menneisyyden muistia tulevaisuutta varten

Tässä blogissa Riku Hämäläinen kirjoittaa Taideyliopiston muistitietohankkeen vaiheista. Hankkeen tarkoituksena on kerätä entisten ja nykyisten opettajien, oppilaiden ja muun henkilökunnan muisteluita taideopetuksen historiasta, arjesta, toiminnasta, sattumuksista, jne. tulevaisuuden tutkimuksia varten. Filosofian tohtori, dosentti Riku Hämäläinen toimii Historiafoorumin yliopistotutkijana. Hän johtaa muistitietohanketta, johon kuuluu niin uuden aineiston kerääminen kuin jo olemassa olevan arkistomateriaalin saatavuuden parantaminen.

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