Helsinki’s Pohjola Insurance building is covered in gargoyles and grotesques taken straight from Finnish folklore and legend.
Built in 1901 by architect Eliel Saarinen, every molding, windowsill, and doorway on the exterior of the building is adorned with a carved stone beast. The term “Pohjola” refers to a mythic land from the Finnish epic the Kalevala in which the Northern region of Pohjola was ruled by an evil witch. It was also believed that the roots of the World Tree could be found in Pohjola, which may explain the many reliefs of trees and squirrels across the building’s facade. More broadly the word refers to any northerly direction. Given its mythological namesake, it’s no surprise that the Pohjola Insurance company agreed to adorn their building with lasting statues of monsters, fools, animals, and nature.
Some office buildings are content to create a front of efficiency and bland production, but leave it to the Finnish with their rich history and mythic traditions to make an insurance building seem legendary.