The Bank of Finland’s main building was designed by the German architect Ludwig Bohnstedt and completed in 1883. The plant arrangements in the square suit the dignified character of the building and have remained the same since 1920. The number of bright summer flower species is limited, and they are highlighted by trimmed cotoneaster shrubs. Different flowers are planted in spring, summer and autumn. At the centre of the square is a statue to Johan Vilhelm Snellman.
Johan Vilhelm Snellman (1806–1881)
Johan Vilhelm Snellman (1806–1881) was a philosopher, statesman, author and newspaperman. He designed a comprehensive plan for the development of the Finnish nation and of the state to be founded on it. He stressed the value of the Finnish language and the importance knowledge had in improving national self- awareness and action and as the precondition of a functioning state. He also finalised the monetary reform that gave Finland its own currency, the markka. His image adorned the 100 markka note.
A competition was held for the design of Snellman’s memorial in 1913, and it was won by a joint proposal by Emil Wikström (1864–1942) and Eliel Saarinen (1873–1950). The two collaborated a lot in their time, working together on such projects as the Finnish pavilion at the Paris world fair in 1900, the sculpture of the bear outside the National Museum of Finland, the bear at Hvitträsk and the lantern bearers on the façade of the Central Railway Station. Wikström was a pioneer in bronze casting in Finland.
The funds for Snellman’s memorial were raised by a public collection. Wikström designed a monumental and dignified sitting figure whose features were depicted in a realistic style. Architect Eliel Saarinen designed the statue’s pedestal and surroundings. A plaster model was completed in 1915, but the casting was delayed by the war and a lack of funds. The statue was eventually unveiled on Snellmann Day, 12 May 1923. The statue was damaged during an aerial bombardment on 26–27 February 1944, and the scars in the pedestal remain as a reminder of the bombing of Helsinki during the Second World War. The statue and square were refurbished in summer 2005.