A relief-like tiled facade creates a unique look for two apartment buildings in Kauklahti, Espoo, designed by KONKRET Architects. The patterning was developed on the surface of sandwich elements following the requirement in the local plan for high-quality facades, but the project budget stretched only as far as the use of prefabricated facade elements.
ARK Architect ELINA MODEEN, what were the general starting points and constraints for the design of the Hansakallion Helmi housing?
EM The objective was to design two pleasant and interesting apartment blocks for a target group who spend more time at home than average. Among the home buyers or tenants, priority is given to those over the age of 55 or those whose functional mobility is diminished due to illness or disability.
Due to cost restraints, the facades had to be prefabricated structures, but the local plan nevertheless required high-quality facades in the cityscape.
ARK In the Hansakallion Helmi housing, prefabricated technology and modular solutions have been used, but also several ideas were developed specifically for these buildings. In terms of the architecture, what did you particularly want to focus on in this project?
EM The buildings are located in a rather open landscape, between the colourful Elä ja Asu Senior Centre and the light-coloured Hansakallio School. We did not want the residential buildings to compete too much for public attention, yet they should still form their own interesting totality.
ARK The tiled facades give the scheme a recognisable look. It is rare in Finland for facades to incorporate any kind of pattern. How did this solution come about?
EM Our office already has one project with tiled facades, Karavaanikuja 2 and 4 in Rastila, Helsinki. On that premise, we started to research and develop an idea for the facades of Hansakallion Helmi. The local plan required that the housing should have facades of different colours, and therefore the colours of the tiles vary in the two buildings. A unifying factor, however, is that untinted concrete is used as the base in both.
The facades are sandwich concrete elements with a varied, relief-like tiled surface. The laying density of the tiles varies from one storey to the next, and the laying pattern also varies in the recesses that mark the entrances.
The apartment buildings each have a total of nine different relief surfaces. All concrete elements are, however, cast using only two basic formworks, modified with filler pieces. The tiles are in fact split perforated bricks, which are installed with the perforated side facing outwards.
ARK The patterning could even be described as decorative. How does it fit into your office’s other projects – how typical was this for you as architects?
EM We believe that every building project is inspired by the building location and plot, in addition to the client’s wishes. Decorative patterning was not a typical solution for us, but rather was born from the project’s starting points. In our opinion, however, the patterning itself is quite restrained, with the contrast created by the untinted concrete, and we believe that the solution will endure time.
ARK The residents of the Hansakallion Helmi housing are on average older or in worse condition physically than the residents in a typical apartment block. How did this manifest itself in your design choices?
EM For example, we wanted to make the stairwells especially inviting. Due to the floor plan, the stairwells are exceptionally spacious, with large windows overlooking the surroundings. The buildings are located on a hill, so the vistas are expansive. The objective was to encourage the residents to benefit from everyday physical activities also during the winter, when it is challenging for some to go outside due to increased risk of falling. ↙