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An unnamed work of art has been welcoming passengers at the airport for 62 years – new home at Helsinki Airport travel centre

Article published
28.9.2021 at 15:36
Havainnekuva Schultz-Kölnin taideteoksesta uudessa matkakeskuksessa.

Karl Heinz Schultz-Köln’s relief has adorned the walls of Helsinki Airport for over 60 years. Following the extension of Terminal 2, the artwork will be moved to the new multimodal travel centre’s train station, where it will greet passengers arriving from the city.

Following the Helsinki Airport Development Programme, a new place was found for artist Karl Heinz Schultz-Köln’s ceramic relief.

After more than 60 years, the artwork will be moved out of the terminal building and into the new multimodal travel centre’s corridor that connects the terminal to the train station. This is a location where passengers arriving from the city will definitely notice the artwork.

“This beautiful ceramic relief came to the airport before many of us. From the mid-20th century, it has been where passengers arriving at the airport are,” says Merja Haapanen, Finavia's former development manager and expert on art located in Helsinki Airport.

The relief has been displayed in many locations, including the customs area and the baggage claim area. Schultz-Köln worked as Arabia’s ceramic artist in the 1950s and ‘60s, which is also when the ceramic relief was created. The modernist work of art consists of 54 ceramic tiles and is four metres wide and three metres tall. 

The story of the artwork began in 1959 

 A clipping from the Arkkitehti magazine published in the 1960s reveals some of the artwork’s history: the unnamed ceramic relief was originally placed in Helsinki Airport’s pavilion, which was completed in 1952.

Wärtsilä donated the artwork to the Roads and Waterways Administration, and it was placed next to the customs checkpoints in the temporary building. According to the magazine, the idea was that, unlike a painted mural, a ceramic artwork could be retained and moved to another location.

Ceramic relief at Helsinki Airport

“I was surprised that the relief is that old. I thought the artwork was created for the terminal designed by Ström-Tuomisto, completed in 1969, where it was displayed in the baggage claim area,” says Haapanen.

“I remember that when I started working for Finavia, Ström-Tuomisto’s terminal building was extended and the artwork was moved and placed behind baggage carousel 31 in baggage claim area 2B. It adorned that space until recently.” 

Finnish art and design are a big part of the customer experience at the airport  

 “Art absolutely plays a significant role in how pleasant passengers find the airport. We wanted to bring artworks that reflect Finnishness to the airport: this artwork is a reminder of our rich ceramic design tradition,” says Haapanen.

“The clipping from the Arkkitehti magazine offers a vivid description of the artwork: ‘dynamic lines, glazed and unglazed sections and the light blue, orange, dark green, brick red, dark blue and light green engage in rich interaction’. The artwork is still very topical and interesting today especially thanks to its abstract subject.”

Following the upgrade of Terminal 2, it became possible to find a new place for the large artwork. The atmosphere of the new terminal will strongly reflect Finnish nature, which is why another, more suitable location was sought for Schultz-Köln’s abstract artwork.

“In 2014–2021, the artwork was hidden away, but now it will continue to do what it has always done: greeting passengers leaving and arriving at the airport.”

The Airport of the Future article series shares stories and interesting details behind the Helsinki Airport Development Programme. Helsinki Airport is in the middle of the largest extension project in its history. The goal of Finavia’s giant investment is to develop the airport’s services and customer experience as well as strengthen Helsinki Airport’s position as one of Europe’s leading transfer airports. We will open the doors and welcome all to the Airport of the future 1st of December 2021.

Read more about Helsinki Airport Development Programme.

Find out how colours guide passengers: Main designer of the Terminal 2 extension explains why security control is blue

Learn how accessibility has been taken into account down to the smallest detail in the Helsinki Airport Development Programme