Helsinki City Theatre restored to former glory

The original design and look of the Helsinki City Theatre were honoured throughout its extensive renovation. Light plays a vital role in the theatre both on the stage and backstage.
Surrounded by the beautiful park of Tokoinranta, the Helsinki City Theatre has been restored to its original glory in a two-year renovation project. The renovation of this building, designed by Timo Penttilä in 1967, was performed showing proper reverence for the original design, while fully updating its services engineering. 

Happy staff
The modernisation provided both the 274-seat and the 923-seat stages with top-quality stagecraft and sound and lighting systems. The doors to the remodelled facilities were opened to the public in August 2017 when the musical Myrskyluodon Maija – tickets to which have been sold out far into the autumn – was shown on the large stage.
The audience is sure to enjoy their time in the theatre’s beautifully restored entrance hall, foyer and auditoriums. Another world opens up backstage where the theatre’s skilled professionals create the sets for the performances. Behind the curtain, good working lights are needed in rehearsal spaces, the stage property room, makeup and dressing rooms and in many other facilities all the way to the theatre’s large store of hats. The staff is absolutely delighted with the modernised workspaces and their lighting. 

 “Before the renovation, all the facilities were quite gloomy. Now it feels like the sun is shining in even windowless spaces and it feels great to work here. We are very pleased with it; it’s now easy to see what you’re doing, and the lighting has also improved occupational safety,” says Antti Rehtijärvi, the Technical Director of the Helsinki City Theatre.

Clearly better working lights 
During the renovation, the entire electrical system of the building was remodelled.
 “As a project under design, the building proved an exceptionally multifaceted challenge with its numerous spaces for diverse purposes. Hiding the technology was a big job and required close cooperation with various design teams and contractors. The use of a data model simplified the electrical wiring and lighting designs considerably,” says Jorma Finnberg, Project Manager at Rejlers Finland Oy, the Electrical Consulting Company. 

Challenging stage lighting

The theatre stage is a swarm of activity between performances; alongside intensive rehearsals, the massive technology and staging need to be built. The black surfaces of the stage alone pose a challenge for the lighting. The measurements of the large stage are predictably sizeable: the rotating performance area facing the 923-seat auditorium is 24 metres high and, with its background space, covers an area of 600 square metres.

The old working lamps of the small and large stage were replaced with powerful LED luminaires from the Glamox i80 serie, which provide the high spaces with ample and even lighting. The luminaires’ 1–10V control units link them to the main stage-lighting control systems. Built in 1989, Studio Elsa, the extended portion of the City Theatre, also has Glamox i80 luminaires illuminating its rehearsal stage with LED lightsource of 3000 kelvin color temperature, in the future it can also be used in performances - if necessary.

 “The new LED working lights are a huge step forward compared to the old halogen lighting. The colour and amount of light is now clearly better,” Rehtijärvi says happily.

The lighting is a spot on from stage set to costumes 
A stage property room is a vital part of a theatre because this is where the stage set is created. Up to eight meters tall, the structures built for the large stage are true masterpieces. This precise craft requires plenty of light in the high spaces above the stage. Exceptionally good colour rendering is also needed for set painting and surface treatment. The theatre’s production areas are illuminated with the superbly efficient Glamox GIR lighting fixtures, equipped with T5 fluorescent lamps including colour rendering of Ra=90. 

Even the City Theatre’s magnificent collection of costumes and hats can now bask in a light worthy of its splendour. The  Glamox i20 luminaires installed in the ceiling of the theatre’s storage spaces bring out the colours and textures of the costumes in the high-quality LED light. 

 “We look for clothing for various plays every day in the costume and hat storerooms and have the actors try them on. It’s vital that the natural essence and colours of the textiles are easy to distinguish,” Rehtijärvi says.

  • The solution in a nutshell: 

    Helsinki City Theatre
    • Gross floor area: 27,260 m2   
    • Staff: about 250
    • Developer: City of Helsinki, Urban Environment Division, Land Property Development and Plots
    • Building contractor: SRV Rakennus Oy 
    • Architectural design: LPR-Arkkitehdit Oy 
    • Electrical design: Rejlers Finland Oy

    Lighting: 
    Stages and the high rehearsal hall: i80 (144 pieces)
    Stage property room and other production facilities: GIR (225 pieces)
    Carpentry shop and paint shop: MAX 1200 LED (24 pieces) 
    Costume storerooms, service aisles and low workspaces: i20 (1025 pieces)
    Office spaces: C10 (61 pieces)
    Kitchens: C60-R 4x14W (22 pieces)
    Toilets and washrooms: D70 (410 pieces) and A40-W (165 pieces)