The ground we tread in Helsinki

Uutta Helsinkiä
23.12.2019
The mineral composition of the earth on which Helsinki stands creates a unique blend of pinks and blues in the rocks of the city. Typical Helsinki cobblestones can be identified by their coloration and shape, according to city-lover and designer Jussi Laine, who also hails from Finland’s capital.

The mineral composition of the earth on which Helsinki stands creates a unique blend of pinks and blues in the rocks of the city. Typical Helsinki cobblestones can be identified by their coloration and shape, according to city-lover and designer Jussi Laine, who also hails from Finland’s capital.

I adore all forms of rock that can be found in Helsinki. Boulders, slabs, curbs, plinths, cobbles, and paving stones. The colors of the finest stone streets glow in different hues in different seasons, when wet and when dry, adding a beauty to the urban experience.

The oldest paving stones in the city were quarried from the bedrock of the Helsinki peninsula and its nearby islands. The form of granite found here is so rare it has its own name: helsingite. The cobblestones that pave much of the center of Helsinki are the oldest form of paving used in the city. To help facilitate foot traffic, the most important streets that were once strewn with gravel were paved with rows of large, uniformly rectangular slabs cut from granite boulders.

Most of the center’s streets and roads are paved with rectangular bricks of granite known as Belgian blocks, the material for which was gathered from quarries that were established when Helsinki was first being founded.

The final domestic paving stone typical to Helsinki is the cube-shaped “stone dice”, which has been used to pave various street surfaces and parade squares since the 1920s. This rock was brought to Helsinki from far away, and doesn’t always represent the otherwise typically pastel red shades of the city’s geology.

If you walk from the Belgian block Market Square to the dice-stone Senate Square via Sofiankatu, you’ll be standing on some masterful paving from the 1930s. On the little side street that is Sofiankatu, you can find Helsinki’s oldest types of paving stone — cobblestones and boulder rock — side by side.

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Text Jussi Laine and photo Henri Vogt.