Helsinki’s new Dance House, a perfect “dance machine”

The 7,000 m2 dance venue was designed by JKMM Architects in dialogue with a reclaimed factory from the 1940s.

This article was originally published on Domus 1066, March 2022.

The Dance House brings history and future together. The building is located in connection to Helsinki’s former cable factory, where from the 1940s, for example, marine cables were manufactured.

In the early 1990s the building was acquired by the City of Helsinki and today it is Finland’s largest cultural centre containing museums, galleries, studios, art schools and other activities. The Dance House adds a contemporary layer to the history of the factory and its surroundings. New and old are juxtaposed but also in dialogue with each other.

Dance House, JKMM Architects, Helsinki, Finlandia, 2022. Foto © Tuomas Uusheimo
Dance House, JKMM Architects, Helsinki, Finland, 2022. Photo © Tuomas Uusheimo

The design was inspired by dance, drawing on its underlying principles – gravity, the lightness and heaviness of the human body – rather than its forms and aesthetics. Seemingly defying gravity, the main facades are raised off the ground. These two steel walls are in dialogue: one is made of rough rusted steel, while the other is of shiny stainless steel. As in dance, the impression of lightness requires muscle. Accordingly, thousands of kilos of steel build the sense of immateriality and lightness.

The acades were custom-designed using laser welding technology to create bespoke sandwich panels with the largest possible surfaces. In the evening, the satin like steel wall of the entrance square forms a gigantic surface for reflections and light, and can become part of the scenery for dance events. Overlooking the park, the north facades are covered by hundreds of circular aluminium discs that create abstract rhythmic surfaces.


The Dance House is like a huge modern “dance machine”, and its machine-like quality can be sensed everywhere. The project, combining new and old, contains 7,000 square metres with two black-box dance theatres. Erkko Hall is the largest dance performance space in Nordic countries. Measuring 26 x 37 x 24 metres (height), it includes a tower for scenery and a mobile 700-seat telescopic seating system, and the hall can accommodate up to 1,000 people. The old Pannu Hall has been redesigned into a smaller black-box theatre space for 235 to 400 people. The project also features a glazed roof to cover the outside courtyard space, transforming it into a multifunctional entrance area, in between the Dance House and the Cable Factory. Inside, dance can spread throughout the entire building: from the lobby to the training studio, to the restaurant and cloakroom. In addition, technical solutions allow the stages to be changed in shape and location.

The building is only complete when the dancers and audience arrive. As the visitors enter the spaces, they are invited onto the stage and become part of the performance. In the interiors, robust surfaces of raw steel and concrete meet theatre lighting systems, technical installations and colours. On the outside, lights and shadows play with reflective surfaces. Together, these aim to create a “burlesque”, sly atmosphere that is experiential and stimulates the moment of performance. In the lobby, the interactive light work The Other by artist Eetu Huhtala reacts softly to the visitors’ movements, transforming them into art, just like a dance.

Dance House, JKMM Architects, Helsinki, Finlandia, 2022. Foto © Tuomas Uusheimo
Dance House, JKMM Architects, Helsinki, Finland, 2022. Photo © Tuomas Uusheimo
Dance House
JKMM Architects with ILO architects
Project architect:
Harri Lindberg
Design team:
JKMM – Teemu Kurkela (/lead architect), Teemu Taskinen, Hannu Rytky, Salla Oikkonen, Marko Pulli, Reetta Aarnio, Anniina Koskela, Jarno Vesa, Edit Bajsz, Tatu Laakso, Asmo Jaaksi, Samuli Miettinen, Juha Mäki-Jyllilä ILO – Pia Ilonen (/co-lead architect), Kati Murtola, Carolin Franke, Karoliina Hoppu
Interior design:
Noora Liesimaa (leading interior architect), Paula Salonen
Structural engineering:
HVAC engineering:
Theatre consulting and engineering:
Acoustics and sound design:
Landscape design:
Nomaji Landscape Architects
Kiinteistö Oy Kaapelitalo
Design and construction phase:

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