The cable factory in Helsinki characterises the changes that took place in industry in Finland, and in other European countries in the course of the 20th century. All cables used in Finland had to be imported until the Suomen Kaapelitehdas Oy (Finnish cable company) was founded in 1912 by Arvid Wikstrom (1886-1937), who had gained experience of the industry in England and Germany. The factory, on the sea shore, in the Salmisaari area on the west side of Helsinki, was built under the direction of his successor Verner Weckman (1882-1968), an Olympics wrestling gold medallist, who had studied at Karlsruhe and worked in the Urals, and returned to Finland when it gained independence from Russia in 1917.
The factory was built to the design of the architect Waino Gustaf Palmquist (1882-1964) between 1939 and 1954, and consists of a range of three-, five- and seven-storey blocks, in light-coloured brick. The complex extends over 5 ha, and was reckoned to be the largest factory in Finland.
From the early 1960s Suomen Kaapelitehdas Oy became more concerned with electronics rather than traditional cable-manufacture, and in 1967 merged with another changing firm, Nokia Oy, which was developing from a forest-based concern founded in 1865 in the small town of Nokia in south-west Finland, into an electronics company. The successful development of Nokia into an international concern began in the factory in the late 1960s. As the nature of electronics production changed the company had less need for a traditional factory and parts were let to tenants, particularly to artists from the early 1980s.
A rehabilitation scheme was prepared in 1987 but many of the resident tenants protested that it would force them to leave, and an artists’ co-operative was formed which permitted a less rigid system of management. The conversion of the factory was completed in 1991, and it now houses many artists’ studios, nine galleries, several art schools, rehearsing studios, sports clubs and radio stations as well as museums of photography, the theatre and hotels and restaurants.