“My dear Aino, how would I know? I am a composer, not a fortune-teller.” This quote by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius in the 1890s is said to have been his reply to his wife’s persistent inquiries as to when, if ever, he might be coming home from yet another of his excessively lengthy and decidedly liquid ‘Symposium’ sessions at the luxurious Kämp Hotel Bar in the centre of Helsinki.
At the time, the city’s intelligentsia, social elite, and artistic and cultural influencers gathered regularly at the iconic hotel bar, smoking their cigars, drinking exotic liqueurs and enjoying life.
The hotel’s illustrious history includes many ups and downs, but this past June its famed Kämp Bar opened once again after a five-month restoration by award-winning Helsinki-based design firm Fyra.
Fyra has achieved a rare feat in a space that was a mismatched patchwork of styles and eras: a feeling of permanence and history, as if it had always been like this. Their goal was also to improve the flow and flexibility of the connected spaces: the lobby, brasserie and bar. Only the bar was renovated at this stage, the rest will follow.
Inspiration for the entire renovation and for the material and colour selections came from the large 1893 painting ‘Artists’ Celebration at Kämp’ by Swedish painter Victor Andrén that has now been relocated to become the central eye-catcher of the entire space.
The international classic glamour of the bar was further emphasized by restoring and relocating some of the furnishings while other pieces are brand new but harmoniously coherent with the old. Some of the famous, old chandeliers were relocated to emphasize the flexible use of the space from breakfast time to evening. The material choices included prestigious and elegantly aging brass, mahogany and marble.
Built originally in 1887 by the restaurateur Carl Kämp and designed by architect Theodor Höijer the hotel survived ownership changes and Finland’s prohibition and war years, but then closed down in 1965. In 1999, the original building was torn down and a completely new building opened. It has since kept its position as the premier luxury hotel in the city regularly hosting international celebrities and notables as well as the all-important official after-party of the annual Independence Day Gala at the Presidential palace just a block away.
Images by Riikka Kantinkoski