The Rauhalinna Castle – Bringing New Life to a Historical Castle

A new layer of architecture with a strong character of its own is added in a way that respects the unique qualities of the culturally and historically valuable milieu.

Read the article in Finnish here.

The Rauhalinna Castle is a unique example of Russian style wooden castle houses in Finland. With a rare combination of Arabic influenced pillars and Swiss inspired decorative wood carved details, the castle with its surrounding parkland is landmarked for historic preservation. To bring new life to Rauhalinna as the active place of meetings and social life that it once used to be, a new guest house made of CLT was constructed to accommodate the needs of visitors, and two new wooden sauna buildings were added. In the restoration and renovation of the Rauhalinna Castle, it was important to strike a balance between the unique character of the old castle and the new buildings while also complementing the rich expression of the old castle with wooden buildings made with contemporary methods.

Complementing the Old with New

A new layer of architecture with a strong character of its own is added in a way that respects the unique qualities of the culturally and historically valuable milieu. The new guest house, Käenpoika, introduces a contemporary layer of wood architecture to the historical landscape. With its strong sculptural form and red shingle cladding, it engages in a dialogue with the other buildings in the yard. The carefully designed composition of openings continues the theme of deliberately framed views that is characteristic to the old castle. Like in the old castle, also in the new guest house each room offers a different view into the surrounding landscape and has a unique atmosphere of its own.

The new guest house, Käenpoika replaces an old auxiliary building on the yard next to the Rauhalinna Castle. Following the tradition of the castle as a socially active gathering place, it provides additional space for accommodating guests. Without causing unnecessary burden to the historical castle building itself, it complements the existing historical buildings’ program. The addition of the new guest house enhances the functionality of the existing buildings and provides a quiet complement to the ornate decoration of the castle. The Käenpoika building is placed in the forest landscape with pine trees. Its shape is carefully sculpted to respect the surrounding buildings and to reveal and frame views from the yard past it. Together with the renovated buildings it forms a sheltered courtyard, generating an additional central space for comfortably spending time outdoors.

As a wooden building with a pitched roof, the new guest house brings together traditional methods of building and new ways of using wood. The load bearing structure in the new building is made of CLT. This made it possible to realize the construction in a time efficient and ecologically sustainable manner with minimal disturbance to the landscape during construction. The use of shingles in the façade cladding is a traditional solution that binds the new building together with the historical character of the castle. While the red color continues the traditional color palette of the other wooden buildings in the yard, the decision to paint the shingles red strongly deviates from the traditional way of treating shingles. Wood is strongly present also in the interiors of the guest house.

New Wooden Structures by the Lake

As part of the project to restore the Rauhalinna Castle, two new sauna buildings were built by the lake in place of the old one that was no longer possible to repair. They blend in with the forest by the shore. The smaller one of the new sauna buildings is a traditional smoke sauna made of hand carved logs. The bigger one of the new sauna buildings is made with a CLT structure and features a large terrace and a fireplace room.

A new wooden pier and boat pavilion by the lake creates a docking place for the boats and brings back the old connection between the waterways and the castle grounds. It also functions as a small pavilion by the shore to enjoy the view over the lake.

Technical solutions

The restoration and renovation of the Rauhalinna Castle provides an example of how a layer of contemporary architecture can complement a historical landmark to improve its functionality. The old castle house was badly in need of care, and its new owners decided to undertake a major restoration and renovation project to repair the main building as well as to bring the rest of the castle with its auxiliary buildings to contemporary standards. The purpose of the restoration was to help cherish the castle for a long time to come in the future.

In the restoration, the goal was to preserve the old as much as possible. Efforts were made to restore the old villa to its original appearance inside and out. The layers of various additions from different periods during the history of the building were removed and the original parts were restored in as much as possible. The exterior walls of the building were almost completely renewed, as well as the balcony and tower structures. The corner tower was returned to its original height. Also, the round shape of the south bedroom window was restored.

The rich ornamentation of the interior spaces of the old castle was carefully brought back as close to the original as possible. Most of the original ceilings in the old wooden villa could be preserved. The interior walls were all painted anew or covered with new wallpaper, and the original parquet floors were sanded and varnished. The original shades of paint colors were used as accurately as possible in both the interior and exterior surfaces. Each room in the restored old castle has a character of its own. In interconnected spaces, the paint colors were brought back to a uniform historical time period. The wallpapers also follow historical wallpapers, but do not always completely match the originals. They have been selected with care to match the original ones as close as possible.

The building technology has been updated, and geothermal heating, sewers and a pumping station have been installed. With the increase in building technology, more space for maintenance facilities became necessary. The space needed for them was achieved when a terrace was built between the old main building and the new guest house, under which the rooms for building technology were placed.

The new guest house is made of cross laminated timber, CLT. The massive wood frame serves both as the load bearing and as the stiffening structure. The strength of CLT also allows for a flexible and spacious room program. In the interiors wood creates ideal conditions for keeping the temperature and humidity levels comfortably even. The use of wood as a singular material also simplifies the maintenance of the building. The building is heated with energy from ground source heat pumps.

The new guest house is equipped with an automatic fire extinguishing sprinkler system. In places where the distance between the guesthouse and the renovated old buildings on the site is less than eight meters, the exterior walls of the old buildings have been made fire safe. In the new guest house, the exit ways inside the building are separated with compartmentalizing walls from the accommodation units, and the units are also separated from each other.

The construction project

The commission was based on a proposal created for a concept design competition for complementing the old castle with new construction.The aim was to improve the functionality of the castle in a way that recognizes and respects the unique qualities of the culturally remarkable milieu. Introducing a contemporary layer of architecture with a strong character of its own, an interesting dialogue between the richly ornamented old castle and the new buildings was to be created. The goal was to allow the old and the new to engage in a conversation with each other as equal partners each with their own voice. The project was realized in close consultation with the National Board of Antiquities.

The concept design competition and the start of the design phase took place in spring 2020. The building permit was obtained in August 2020. The implementation of the project was realized in stages starting in fall 2020. The foundations for the new guest house were installed in late summer in 2020, and the CLT structure and walls were erected in November 2020. The shingle facade was installed in early 2021 and painted in May 2021. Finishing work was done in late 2022. In the meantime, the restoration of the old buildings on the site was going on in parallel with the construction of the new buildings. The last part of the project to be completed was the construction of the new wooden pier and boat pavilion by the lake in late 2023.

From the beginning, the goal of the project was to complement the courtyard of the old main building with a new guest house and saunas in order to alleviate the burden of use bestowed on the old main building. The goal was to create a well-functioning complex by combining the careful restoration of the culturally and historically valuable old main building with accommodation and sauna facilities housed in new buildings that meet the expectations of people today. At the same time, the building technical systems were brought up to contemporary standards.

Since the old main building is landmark protected by decree, i.e., the interior is also protected, we worked closely with the curator of the National Board of Antiquities, architect Teiju Autio. The representatives of the Savonlinna City Museum, the regional office of the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment, and the Building Department were also consulted throughout the project both regarding solutions related to the area around the castle as a whole as well as on the details of the restoration. Construction architect and conservator Maria Luostarinen oversaw the restoration of the old main building. The work was based on a carefully prepared survey of the history of the building.


Anssi Lassila is the founder and director of OOPEAA Office for Peripheral Architecture and Professor of Contemporary Architecture at Oulu School of Architecture. His architecture combines a sculptural form with traditional materials and innovative techniques. Placing the human being at the center, he has a keen interest in exploring the potential of wood as a sustainable solution and in developing new systems of modularity. His personal experience in working with wood extends from building with hand carved logs to the use of CLT. His work has been recognized with some of the highest merits achievable both in Finland and internationally.
Project Architect: Iida Hedberg
Design Team: Tanja Vallaster, Teemu Leppälä, Aki Markkanen

Kuva: Jukka Granström

Project in brief

Rauhalinna ja Käenpoika

  • Location | Savonlinna
  • Purpose | Accommodation
  • Constructor/Client | Suomen Liikekiinteistöt SLK Oy
  • Valmistumisvuosi | 2023
  • Architectural Design | OOPEAA
  • Structural design | Suomen Liikekiinteistöt SLK Oy
  • LVIA-suunnittelu | Redoman Oy
  • Electrical design | Sähköasennus Kuronen Oy
  • Interior design | OOPEAA
  • Muut suunnittelijat ja asiantuntijat | Rakennesuunnittelu, CLT-rakenteet: Timber Bros
  • Pääurakoitsija | Suomen Liikekiinteistöt SLK Oy
  • Photographs | Marc Goodwin ja Anssi Lassila
  • Text | OOPEAA