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Everything started from an iron works

In the year 2015 Varkaus celebrated its 200 years of industrial history. 20.04.1815 the senate authorized Gustaf Wrede to establish the iron works near Huruskoski and Ämmänkoski. The employees of the iron works settled in the immediate vicinity of the factories into dwellings built by the iron works or in small cottages on local farms. Residential and commercial buildings surrounded the building in a variety of arrangements without any greater plan. Only a few of the original buildings from the 1800s have survived in the central area of Varkaus; examples include the Virkamiesklubi and Keskuskonttori buildings.

The city planning of Varkaus was started in the early 1900s when the ironworks of Varkaus was purchased by A. Ahlström Osakeyhtiö and Walter Ahlström became the chief executive of the firm. Ahlström launched intensive efforts to develop the wood-processing industry of Varkaus. During the years of massive construction, there was rapid growth in the number of people involved with the ironworks. The ironworks was in charge of the planning, housing policy and other public functions when Varkaus was not yet an independent municipality.

Walter Ahlström had a vision of a whole city formed around industrial plants. Ahlström participated in the planning of his city actively with the aim of creating a new kind of industrial community where all of the functions were a part of the whole.

A. Ahlström Osakeyhtiö ordered the first city plan from architects and brothers Ivar and Valter Thomé in 1913. The plan was adopted in 1916; it placed the industrial buildings along the rapids of Hurukoski and on the peninsula of Pirttiniemi; administration and services were located on Päiviönsaari island and housing was planned in a hierarchical order for Kommila and Kosulanniemi. These were connected by Ahlströminkatu, a boulevard-like avenue.

The main features of the city plan of the Thomé brothers still exist in the cityscape of Varkaus. Their work was continued by, among others, Karl Lindahl, Carolus Lindberg, Alvar Aalto, Kalevi Väyrynen, and Olli Kivinen, who was first employed by the company and, starting in the 1940s, increasingly by the township. Very prominent planners have been responsible for the cityscape of Varkaus; many of them have also designed many industrial, administrative and residential buildings familiar to the people of Varkaus.

The exposition called City of Layers by the museums of Varkaus shows the building heritage of Varkaus and the change of the cityscape from the 1800s to today: