Getting a concert hall built in Helsinki was an incredibly long-drawn-out process that lasted over 70 years and demanded a tremendous amount of work for the city’s culture folk. The idea of a congress and concert centre was first raised during the term of Robert Kajanus. It came up again under Schnéevoigt: Eino Suolahti, Chairman of the Music Committee, proposed that a concert hall be built in 1937, and a committee was in fact appointed to prepare the matter in 1938. A plot of land was even reserved for it. But the Building Planning Committee delayed its decision until a study had been made of similar projects in the other Nordic countries.
The project aborted. In 1946, the matter was again raised. This time, a division was set up to look into it, and this time, the Finnish Broadcasting Company (Yle) also got involved. But once again the project was shelved, being outdone by the plan for extending the Helsinki Trade Fair Hall.
In 1954, Helsingin Sanomat raised the topic again in one of its leaders. Again the City Council set up a concert hall committee, and this time it triggered yet a third ‘orchestra war’: the idea of combining the RSO and the HPO. The reason why the project fell through this time was that the orchestras did not wish to combine.
Spring 1961 saw the announcement of a town plan by Alvar Aalto for Helsinki city centre. This plan reserved the land along the shore of Töölö Bay for various cultural facilities.
In early 1962, Helsinki City Council proposed that a congress and concert centre be built. This time, it would also include premises for the Finnish National Opera. The Council proposed that it be built on the waterside plot designated in Aalto’s plan, but excluding the National Opera. After lengthy political wrangling, the motion was passed and the Finlandia Hall project was born.
The actual building of Finlandia Hall got off to an “excruciatingly slow start”, as Matti Vainio put it. The construction project was surrounded by considerable political bickering and many attempts were made to prevent the hall from being built. One thorny issue was whether the hall was to be used first and foremost for congresses or for concerts.
Despite the discordant atmosphere, the hall was finally finished, though not until a new decade, the 1970s, had dawned. To mark the official opening, a composition competition was held. The inauguration of Finlandia Hall was celebrated with a symphony concert on 2nd December 1971 and a pop concert on 5th December 1971. At last, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra had the use of a concert hall of its own.
Source: Einari Marvia & Matti Vainio – Helsingin kaupunginorkesteri 1882-1982