1 / 2016 - repair, Le Corbusier

Building renovation has been on the increase and will continue to do so in the future. A successful renovation requires careful planning customised to the situation. This issue features renovations with very different starting points and methods, but in all cases the original architecture has been treated with respect. St. Paul's Church (1917) in Tartu, Estonia, designed by Eliel Saarinen, is little known in Finland. The history of the church has been dramatic: during the war it was damaged by fire and during the Soviet era it was used as a museum storage. Now, however, the church has been renovated, returning it to the glory its status requires. The major restoration and extension of the building lasted a decade. Finnish architects Merja Nieminen and Kari Järvinen received the commission following an architectural competition.

The Maamerkki tower (1987) in Itäkeskus, Helsinki, is a very different renovation project. The office tower, designed by Erkki Kairamo, one of the leading architects of the time, has been skilfully converted into an apartment block. The project shows that even a major change can be achieved with respect for the original. In a renovation project one must accept the limitations imposed by the building – whether it is 30 or 100 years old – and use them to one’s advantage. This is how Anders Adlercreutz, the architect of the renovation set out his approach. Adlercreutz, who is currently a first-term Member of Parliament, writes in a guest column about a healthy building. He himself lives with his family in a boarded log house built in the 1920s. The occupants thrive in their house, yet one would not be allowed to build such a house anymore. The MP asks: "Is it perhaps time to wake up to consider the rationale behind excessive energy efficiency?"

Le Corbusier, "the Picasso of Modern architecture", never visited Finland nor designed anything here. His work, however, has contributed significantly to the development of Finnish Modern architecture. Researcher Kristo Vesikansa traces expressions of Le Corbusier’s influences in Finland from the 1920s to the 1980s. Also the other featured articles talk about the history of Finnish Modernism. Among these, for example, is the currently topical issue of the Helsinki Ice Hall (1966). With its impressive suspended roof structure, the stadium – which has been proposed for demolition in order to make way for a new ice arena – is architecturally still the most significant ice stadium in Finland. The issue also brings to light the international seminar held on the island of Suomenlinna in 1968 which globalised Finnish design perspectives.

Contents

conversion of an office tower into housing
architect Anders Adlercreutz
address Kauppakartanonkatu 7, Helsinki
gross area 7020 m2
completion 2015
original building Erkki Kairamo 1987

commentary Miia Perkkiö
photos Anders Portman / Kuvio

Helsinki Culinary School Perho extension
architects Jan Söderlund, Katariina Sewón
address Mechelininkatu 5, Helsinki
gross area 1613 m2
completion 2015
original building Aarne Ervi 1957

commentary Pentti Kareoja
photos Jussi Tiainen

Restoration of Seinäjoki Aalto Library
architects Olli Helasvuo, Tapani Mustonen
address Alvar Aallon katu 14, Seinäjoki
gross area 1890 m2
completion 2015
original building Alvar Aalto 1965

commentary Olli-Paavo Koponen
photos Arno de la Chapelle, Olli Helasvuo

 

A basket full of woollen socks sits in the hallway, waiting for the guests with cold feet. In midwinter the floors feel chilly and slippers are necessary even upstairs. We live in a board-clad log house from the 1920s with hardly any insulation. As you may have guessed, the house does not meet many of the current building requirements. Accessibility for the disabled is non-existent and the house also has other shortcomings in light of the current standards: insulation is weak and ventilation is only natural. Our poor old house would not get a valid energy certificate through any skulduggery and our electricity bill is bigger than one would hope it to be, however nowhere near as big as suggested by the energy certificate I prepared just for fun.

One would not be allowed to build such a house anymore – authorities and legislators (excluding myself!) would see to that. What is noteworthy though is the fact that we, the people living in the house, feel great. Since moving here, our children have been remarkably healthy. The influenza epidemic that hit our family after Christmas is the exception that proves the rule. In contrast, our years spent in a city apartment building were characterised by numerous respiratory tract infections and earaches.

We all know what the current building practices entail: highly developed layered structures where the characteristics of each component are known down to the smallest detail, structures where each layer does its job well but the task of a neighbour poorly, structures where even the smallest construction fault can knock down the entire deck of cards.

CE markings flash in our eyes and U-values are adjusted to the limit. The overall solution is weighed up carefully and the final adjustments are made in the ventilation machine. All this is done just so that we can achieve the required E-values and put the “Approved” stamp on the papers. We have a scientifically accurate system which does not, however, automatically lead to a good outcome – or energy efficiency, or durability nor does it necessarily lead to comfort of use.

Finland is known to be a country of one truth where we every now and then wake up to the limited nature of one truth. Perhaps now would be the time to wake up and consider the rationality of excessive energy efficiency, to consider if ecological sustainability can be simply measured through energy efficiency during use or whether it would make more sense to look further ahead and observe the entire chain. We should also dare to look at carbon balance and the life cycle of buildings. We could look around, interview people and draw conclusions from existing buildings and the experiences gained from them, especially since there is good reason to assume that our current solution models will be short-lived.

Today, a bulldozer will pass a stone house built in the 1920s and stop at a massive 1980s office building. How can we make sure that 30 years from now the bulldozer will pass a daycare centre built in 2016? ark

Anders Adlercreutz is an architect and a Member of Parliament serving his first term.

 

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