The Jetty Barracks and the King’s Gate – two entrances to the fortress


The King’s Gate in Kustaanmiekka, built during the Swedish era, was an impressive entrance to the fortress. During the Russian period, the focus of operations in Viapori was transferred to the island of Mustasaari, asthe main quay and the Main Guard house were transferred to the northern shore of the island. The building of the Main Guard, known as the Jetty Barracks, was built to constitute a gateway to the fortress and a barracks for 250 soldiers.A new design principle was introduced: hygiene.


Following developments in engineering, rationality, durability and affordability gained increased appreciation in Russia.  Starting from the 1870s , the construction of barracks was standardised, and generic drawings in line with standardised criteria were drawn up. New regulations stipulated that wasted space should be avoided, local materials should be used, and heating, ventilation, running water and waste management should be provided. Buildings made of stone should have a maximum of three stores; wooden buildings, only one. A rational and economical layout was a rectangle divided into quarters for soldiers.


Such aspects were taken into consideration as early as in the 1860s, when architect Greifon was planning the Jetty Barracks. This building, designed to withstand explosions, was divided into sturdy, vaulted casemates using transverse walls, which enabled efficient ventilation and a wealth of sunlight in the soldiers’ quarters. However, functions which “fouled the air”, such as kitchens and privies, were built in the Jetty Barracks.

Jetty Barracks. Photo credits: HKM

An impressive gate building


The mindset of the period held that a barracks should look like a barracks. As the Jetty Barracks was the main entrance to Viapori, it was made to look grander as would normally have been the case. It was accentuated with an impressive gate tower, and the facades were decorated with protruding mouldings, reminiscent of a defensive corridor and a crenellated wall of a medieval defensive castle. Otherwise, the barracks reflected typical contemporary barracks architecture. Corners, for example, were accentuated using flat, square pilasters. Such decorations were also typical of German barracks. Rendered and painted facades contributed positively to the representativeness of the building.


Initially, the Jetty Barracks also housed an office and detention cells. Since 1890, it also housed the quarters of the Mine Company, a reception room of a surgeon’s helper, tailor’s workshop, and a Teaching Command. Today, the building houses the Suomenlinna Visitor Centre, the Brewery Restaurant, a café, and a gallery.


King’s Gate in Kustaanmiekka

The King’s Gate, located in Kustaanmiekka, was built in two phases in the 1750s and 1770s to serve as a gateway to the fortress. In the beginning of the Russian era, the King’s Gate was made higher by constructing a stone parapet on top of the casemates and by adding a raising made of granite blocks in the top part of the gate.


The King’s Gate quay and some of the sandstone pillars of the railing were destroyed by the bombardments of the Crimean War. The King’s Gate was the main gateway to the fortress but, on the other hand, also the weak point of a fortress referred to as the Gibraltar of the north, not only on account of being a kind of fortification but also due to its location in the vicinity of the main shipping channel and the Kustaanmiekka strait. After Finland declared independence, the significance of the King’s Gate was emphasised as a symbolic gateway to Finland.

King’s Gate in 1908. Photo credits: Sotamuseo

Text: Netta Böök and Maija-Liisa Tuomi

The Russian Viapori online exhibition

is part of the jubilee programme for

Finland’s 100 years of independence.