Vapriikki is housed in the old Tampella factory hall, whose oldest parts date back to the 1880s. The largest exhibition hall, a hundred metres long and 16 metres high, was built in the 1910s–1920s.
The industrial history of the Tampella area began in the 1840s with a small blast furnace. In 1856, Gustaf August Wasastjerna, the owner of the Seinäjoki iron works, founded a machine shop by the rapids, while Adolf Törngren, Master of Laws, founded a linen mill. Five years later the two merged to form the Tampere Linen and Iron Industry Limited Company (since named Tampella), which had a wide range of production including locomotives, turbines and damask cloths of linen.
Vapriikki opened to the public in 1996, and the building was fully ready as a museum in 2000. The total floor area of the museum centre is approximately 14,000 m2, half of which is devoted to exhibition facilities and premises open to the public.
The textile production ended in the 1970s, and industrial use of the last buildings by the rapids ceased in the 1990s. The Swedish word ‘fabrik’ became the Finnish ‘vapriikki’ in the last century, and the museum centre was named Vapriikki to emphasise the significance of its location in Finnish industrial history.