Hylkysaari Children's Island

Barbora Červeňová
CTU in Prague - Faculty of Architecture

Project idea

The design consists of a reuse design of an abandoned island in the centre of Helsinki, Finland - the Hylkysaari Island and a detailed reconstruction design of one of its most important buildings, the former Marine Pilot Barracks. The goal and main objective of the project was to make use of its direct connection to the Zoo Island Korkeasaari and to the centre of Helsinki by the most important sight lines and to create an attraction, which would draw people towards the island not only by its purpose, but also visually.

Project description

Hylkysari is an island located in the Eastern part of Helsinki in direct connection to the Korkeasaari Zoo Island. It‘s unique location in the city centre, long-lasting history, valuable natural culture and up to 10 well-preserved buildings (2 are listed as national heritage) make it a unique location to preserve, rediscover and refurbish.

The history of Hylkysaari goes far to the early 19th century going through a process of functional and operational changes, but never finding a use lasting a long period of time. It is this cultural and historical heritage, which should be the reason for the island to become a showcase of its history, to attract people and make them realise what added value there is in the centre of Helsinki. Moreover, the main building of the island, the Marine Pilot Barracks lies in an important sight line from the Helsinki city centre and district of Katajanokka and Sompasaari. Back in the 20th century it acted as a lighthouse for incoming ships. Both of these facts support the conceptual idea of making it a landmark, a „visual lighthouse“, in order to attract and draw attention towards the island and enable it to start living.

An important argument in choosing the new use of the island was its position between newly constructed parts of Helsinki, answering the needs of future housing and urban renewal plans of existing vacant areas of the city, such as Hakaniemi, Kalasatama, Sompasaari and Kruunuvuorenranta. Moreover, the difficult accessibility of the island of Korkeasaari and its connection to the densifying areas will be solved by a new development of a „Crown bridge“ for trams, bike routes and light traffic going all the way from Kruunuvuorenranta to the center of Hakaniemi. This connection will significantly affect the accesibility to the Hylkysaari island, supporting my concept.

The island is in direct connection to the Zoo Island, so the main focus was to take into consideration the most probable target group - parents with children. Along with the surrounding new developments and already existing facilities located up to 3 kilometres from the island, I want to dedicate Hylkysaari to free time activities, after-school education and recreation. The island would serve as a gathering of activities and educational opportunities for children, parents, but also people spending their free time valuably. A bold, but respectful transformation of the Marine Pilot Barracks serves the idea of attracting attention towards the island and at the same time satisfies today‘s needs of adjustable and flexible spaces, thus offering spaces for further development in case the function will need to be adjusted. None of the buildings on the island are thus demolished, they are only adjusted to new use.

Technical information

Master plan is solved to keep all the existing structures on the island, only adjusting them to new use. In the Main Building, the most valuable features are preserved, such as the original staircases and railings, the original windows and facades. Unoriginal roof and top floor, which were added in the 70-80s and which are in a bad technical shape nowadays, are demolished and substituted by the dance studio, with a bold crown addition clad in corrugated metal sheeting underlining the playfulness by one window - framing the view of the city. The roof is solved with wooden glu-lam beams painted white, with structural glass roof - so that during the night and dark winter days, the crown glows in the dark, reminding of the former purpose of the building - lighthouse.


The project was done by me in the Reuse of Buildings Studio at Aalto University School of Art, Design and Architecture in Helsinki.

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