Published in 1/2021 - Crisis


Designing the Future in Pandemic Times

We asked eight Finnish architecture firms what they have been working on in 2020.

Mellunkylä Avenue, vision 2035

JADA Architects
vision for the City of Helsinki

Mellunkylä Avenue is the new main street between the centres of Kontula and Mellunmäki in Helsinki. The building volumes, following the shapes of their plots in a meandering formation, comprise a wide range of housing types, from terraced houses to tower blocks. The stepped form allows for a freer approach in the design of the apartments’ outdoor areas. Variations in the elevations also create suspense in the street views and help control the amount of solar access in the environment. The pockets created between the street and the residential buildings provide sequences in the street and act as local gathering places, as well as stormwater areas. The lower parts of the buildings are in brick and the upper floors in wood. In addition to housing, the modular spatial thinking enables buildings to be used flexibly as workspaces and on the ground level for small-scale services and workshops.

The project was carried out entirely remotely with the Helsinki Urban Environment Divison, including sales negotiations. The corona times has legitimized a mobile way of working that we have used already previously with the Uusi Kaupunki Collective and foreign partners. The gap between a large operator fragmented into different addresses and a networked community has narrowed. The sale of projects and the client’s online steering group meetings are more awkward than traditional encounters, but on the other hand, they focus even more purely on the subject, when even the usually meagre amount of Finnish small talk can be bypassed.

Sörnäinen Arena

K2S Architects
estimated completion 2023

The Sörnäinen Arena offers facilities for gymnastics and cheerleading, both of which lack venues in Helsinki that are served by good public transport connections. The multi-purpose facilities also serve a wider range of user groups, such as local schoolchildren.

The arena will be a new landmark building on the axis of Teollisuuskatu street, which continues to undergo development. The gym halls are placed on top of each other on a narrow plot. The multi-purpose spaces enable a flexible and long-term life cycle. The building has energy-efficient cladding and low-carbon materials and uses renewable, solar and geothermal energy sources.

During the pandemic year 2020, our office has developed substantial solutions and tools for sustainable construction, of which the Sörnäinen Arena is one example. We have also developed BIM tools for comparing materials and structures and have compiled a handbook on sustainable development.

Nihti urban block

Anttinen Oiva Architects, Nomaji Landscape Architects
site allocation competition, 1st prize
estimated completion 2024

Lukki is the first residential block to be built in the Nihti area – that is, the southernmost tip of the Kalasatama district of Helsinki – whose character combines industrial history, the inner archipelago and a diverse urban nature. The residences, representing different forms of ownership, form a rich ensemble of different dwelling types: artists’ apartments with street-level workspaces, community apartments, two-storey terraced houses and, in the tower sections, loft apartments which overlook the surrounding landscape. Contrary to current practice, there are only two or three apartments on each floor around the compact stairwells. What all the plots in the block have in common are light-filled spatial sequences and vistas through the building frame, as well as versatile usability. Common areas allow for a variety of private and shared uses that expand beyond each home.

The competition took place in spring, during the constraints of the first wave of the pandemic, when the discussion about housing and the significance, potential and scope of the local nature and the home expanded and became a reality in everyday life.

Kotka Events Centre 

ALA Architects
estimated completion 2023

The imposing context of the Events Centre is a huge, open harbour area and the even more expansive open sea. The building consists of a main hall built in solid wood, from which is suspended on wires the large ceiling of the lobby, built of prefabricated wooden elements. The lobby also serves as an entrance to the university of applied sciences and a hotel. The main hall can be divided into two in a few minutes, and a smaller hall on the first floor can be opened up to accommodate events of more than three thousand people. The wooden structures are protected on the exterior by a zinc envelope from under which the warm, wooden entrances can be glimpsed.

In a pandemic world, collaboration is no longer defined by urban infrastructures and physical distances: the design team can participate in a project in Peru, Kotka, and Shenzhen during the same day. Of course, reputation and a portfolio have had to be built through physical interaction, but the already well-known name has attracted commissions from all over the world. At the same time, the firm’s identity as an independent and virtually institutional actor is being challenged – projects are beginning to emerge through networks as well as individual experts.

Xamk, Kotka campus

AOR Architects, Architects NRT
estimated completion 2023

The new building of Xamk, the South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences, is located in the Kantasatama harbour area of Kotka, in the same block as the new events centre and hotel. The building sits as an elongated figure on a narrow, almost east-west oriented plot. Its height increases towards the events centre, with as many spaces as possible placed close to the common focal point of the block. The building is covered by a two-plane roof envelope, lowering to the east and south, the long eaves of which bring to mind the traditional port and railway station buildings and protect the interior from excessive sunlight. Also, the concave profile sheet-metal cladding, which runs like a strip along the facades, continues the material palette characteristic of harbour constructions.

The aim has been to make the diverse educational opportunities visible in the interior, both by opening up views into the classrooms and by bringing into the public spaces as many different types of places as possible where people can linger, meet and work. The library-foyer links all the floors into a single large space and helps the users to get an understanding of the building as an entity comprised of upwards-stepped terraces. The interior surfaces are mainly in light tones and wood, in contrast to the harsher materials of the exterior.

National Log Driving Museum

Fetsund, Norway
OPUS Architects
open international competition, competition proposal

The village of Fetsund is located about 20 kilometres east of Oslo. The new museum is located in the immediate vicinity of the River Glomma, which flows through the village. The landscape is flat and open, and the surrounding buildings are mainly one- and two-storey detached houses.

The extensive room programme is resolved as a cluster of several buildings, connected by a single-storey lobby and exhibition space that meanders between them. Each building is designed to exactly match its function, and the space left between is free-form and undefined. The basic solution produces a fragmented and small-scale totality, with the new building implanted into the scale of its surroundings.

Wood has been used for both the load-bearing structures and the cladding, which creates a connection with the building’s operations and the history of log driving. The richness of the material palette is emphasized in the lobby, while the interiors of the separate buildings are based on a more neutral range of colours and materials that do not overwhelm the functions.

Shenzhen Maritime Museum

JKMM Architects
international invitational competition, competition proposal

So far, we have survived the pandemic somewhat shaken but unhurt. Most of us have been working from home since last spring, and most are already longing to return to normal office life. To our delight, our work situation has remained stable and our future looks good.

We worked on the competition for the Shenzhen Maritime Museum in the heat of July entirely remotely, on a tight schedule and in collaboration with Chinese partners. Teleworking was well-suited to the fast-paced competition crunch, juggling between different time zones. The museum, which showcases China’s maritime history and marine life, is located on the delta of the Xinda River, at the boundary between the coastal nature and the urban metropolis. The theme of the proposal is the cycle of water, which is reflected in the museum’s spatial solutions and design language. The complex includes a museum building, exhibition spaces placed partly in the water, and the surrounding shoreline park. The sculptural roof enables carefully considered views to open up from the convertible exhibition spaces towards the surrounding nature – the mountains, sea and sky.

Krakow Music Centre

Lahdelma & Mahlamäki architects, KXM Group
international invitational competition, honourable mention

The premise for our competition proposal was the spirit, symbolism and history of the location. The form of the building refers to the historic fortresses of Kraków, and the plot also comprises a fortress ruin. The fortresses are usually closed to the public, but the competition proposal created an open music fortress, “Twierdza muzyki”, filled with culture and art.

The subterranean floor is divided into a private part for the artists as well as a public part. The ground floor was designed to cater for a large number of people. The music rehearsal rooms are located on a gallery level, and hence overlook the green areas. The large concert hall is rectangular in plan but fits into the dynamic shape of the building. The building also has facilities for a music daycare centre. The green areas on the roof and the slopes intersected by the building are an extension of the adjacent urban meadow, the largest in Europe.

The Covid-19 pandemic has created superb conditions for quiet and focused work: no travelling and no extra meetings or appointments. The competition proposal for the music centre would not have materialised without the pandemic. ↙