Aarne Ervi’s Leppiniemi

Designed by architect Aarne Ervi as a housing area for hydroelectric power station workers, Leppiniemi was built in Muhos between the 1940s and 1960s in connection with the new Pyhäkoski power station - but the history of the area goes back much further. Leppiniemi has often been described as an impressive and romantic place, and the many stories told about it bear witness to this.

Tourism on the River Oulujoki began in the early 19th century, when gentlefolk from Northern Ostrobothnia and elsewhere in Finland made boat trips to the Pyhäkoski area. They would bring dry food, coffee and wine, but not fish: they would get it fresh from the fishing spot at Leppiniemi House, where both whitefish and salmon could be easily caught.

Tourism in the area increased when a regular steamboat service from Oulu to Muhos started in the summer of 1880. Leppiniemi was also recommended in Finland’s first tourist guide. Finland’s first established tourist route from Vyborg via Saimaa and Kainuu to Oulu was via the Pyhäkoski Rapids in Leppiniemi.

Pyhäkoski’s picturesque river scenery and sparkling rapids attracted a considerable number of river tourists. A suspension bridge was built twenty metres above the river from the Leppiniemi farm to the Rakankallio rock, and the Finnish Tourist Board built a restaurant high on the riverbank. Riverboats began to stop at Leppiniemi so that passengers could walk along the bridge and enjoy the view of the boats and the fishing. Tourists could also explore a nearby cave via a stone staircase.

Love in the old days

In those days, Leppiniemi was also a popular place for Midsummer celebrations. It is said that in its heyday Leppiniemi attracted as many as 3,000 visitors who came for the summer festivities. Midsummer visitors used to retreat to a nearby path for privacy, and because of these love stories the path was affectionately called the Path of Love.

There used to be an old fishermen’s path west of the Pyhäkoski rapids where the Lemmenpolku (“Path of Love”) nature trail now runs. As there were no roads on the north bank of the river, the fishing waters of Pyhäkoski had to be reached by paths. Later, tourists would follow the same paths to admire the rapids.

New Leppiniemi built next to hydroelectric power plant

In the 1940s, a huge construction project began on the River Oulujoki when a number of hydroelectric power plants were built. When the power plants were completed, the water level in the river was raised and the Leppiniemi cave and farm were buried under water.

At its peak, the construction of the power plants employed nearly 2,000 workers and doubled the population of the nearby town of Muhos. New housing was needed for the power plant workers and their families. The Leppiniemi housing area was built on the south bank of the river by Pyhäkoski power station, the first hydroelectric power station to be built.

Construction began in the 1940s and the area was completed in the early 1960s. It was the largest of the residential areas in the River Oulujoki power project. The area was designed by architect Aarne Ervi.

Houses for 200 families were built in Leppiniemi, including separate houses for single men and single women. Most of the residents moved to the area from other parts of Finland.

Leppiniemi has features that can also be found in the Sunila factory housing area designed by Alvar Aalto for Kotka in the 1930s – one of Ervi’s architectural references. Ervi’s style in Leppiniemi was romantic functionalism, of which the guest house is a very good example. The interior of the reception room is decorated by the most famous designers of the time, including furniture by Alvar Aalto and lamps by Paavo Tynell. The guesthouse has hosted dignitaries and celebrities, including President Urho Kekkonen. The building is currently privately owned.

Autumn games and bachelor dinners: Leppiniemi grows into a close-knit community

The landscape in Leppiniemi is park-like, and Aarne Ervi designed the area to blend in with the pine forests and natural surroundings. Community wooden saunas were built on the riverbank. The design of the area followed the hierarchy of the factory, with managers and directors living in their own quarters and workers in theirs.

Those who lived in Leppiniemi recall that vegetable plots were laid out in the courtyard for the residents, and greenhouses were built next to them to grow tomatoes. Even exotic fruits such as pineapples and grapes were grown using the electricity generated by the power station.

From the 1940s to the 1960s, Leppiniemi was a very communal and almost self-sufficient village. The area had a wide range of services, including a post office, hairdresser, bakery, canteen, police station, kindergarten, primary school, laundry, cooperative store, bookstore, chemical store, tennis court and a clubhouse that doubled as a cinema. Leppiniemi even had its own police force and prison, as the hard-working residents could sometimes be drunk and disorderly.

The clubhouse hosted autumn games, staff Christmas parties, Mother’s Day parties, film evenings and sports award ceremonies. One of the more informal events was bachelor dinners; on weekday evenings, the clubhouse served dinner to residents of the single men’s house who didn’t have proper kitchen facilities in their barracks.

Today, Leppiniemi is a protected cultural environment

In the 1980s, the number of workers required by the power plant, and thus the population, decreased as the power plants were automated. The Oulujoki Osakeyhtiö company was dissolved in 1991 and the majority shareholder, Imatran Voima, took over the power stations. However, Leppiniemi is still used as a residential area, and the remaining 43 residential buildings are privately owned. Some of the old buildings have been demolished or destroyed. The Leppiniemi primary school building, for example, burned down in 1973.

The area has been declared a cultural environment of national importance, and Leppiniemi is part of the Oulujoki Valley Landscape Area of National Importance.


Leppiniemen asuinalue, Muhos

Leppiniemen asuinalue sijaitsee Oulujoen varressa, Pyhäkosken voimalaitoksen vieressä, noin 7 kilometrin päässä Muhoksen kyläkeskustasta. Alueen on suunnitellut arkkitehti Aarne Ervi.…

Leppiniemen asuinalue, Muhos


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