Nature and Logistics
A designer furniture online store commissioned a logistics centre located along the Turku ring road. Design classics are being shipped around the world from a building that echoes the surrounding forest.
The corona pandemic that brought the world to a halt in the spring of 2020 initiated a boom in home decoration. That meant busy times for the Finnish Design Shop, an online store that sells Nordic design. Therefore, in the late spring that year they began a project to build a new logistics centre. The new building, located near the airport along the Turku ring road, was taken into use just over a year later.
From the ring road one sees a large, black and windowless wall, in the upper corner of which is a logo comprising the company name. The simple form emerged from the requirements of a warehouse: the local detailed plan did not exactly set out stipulations for the appearance of a building along the main road.
On the rear side one gets to see what happens inside the building: at the one end there is a row of loading bays and at the other a glazed corner and a wood-clad cube marking the client entrance. In addition to the logistics centre, the building also houses the company’s headquarters, a showroom and a restaurant.
The architecture firm Arkkitehtiruutu undertook work for the building’s owner and developer, NREP Logicenters, and acted as the principal designers. The user of the building, Finnish Design Shop, then brought in Avanto Architects and Studio Joanna Laajisto to design the interiors and facades.
How did the division of labour come about, Avanto Architects’ VILLE HARA and ANU PUUSTINEN?
In general, it’s not particularly good if there are too many different designers involved. The architect and principal designer had been selected for this project before we came along. Finnish Design Shop’s ambitious CEO Teemu Kiiski wanted the building to represent the company’s values, design and quality. Due to a hectic schedule, our office came to help with those parts that are visible to visitors.
The different areas of responsibility were clear-cut. We designed the facades, the arrival to the building and the showroom stairs. We also gave comments on the design of the exterior spaces. Joanna Laajisto was in charge of the interior design. Her area of responsibility was larger than is normally the case for an interior designer. The large project progressed on a tight schedule, so it was also beneficial that the planning responsibility was shared.
You looked for inspiration for the building from the forest. Could you tell us about that?
The abstract vertical relief pattern of the facades refers to the tree trunks of the surrounding forest. The forest was a natural theme, because the location is quite interesting. There is a nature reserve nearby, even though the building itself is located as a buffer zone between it and the main road. For example, we made significantly larger windows for the first-floor office spaces than is usually the case, so that one can see over the logistics yard and into the forest.
The restaurant has a terrace and the staff spaces have a balcony, where one feels close to nature. We tried to conserve as much of the surroundings as possible, which was difficult when landfill had to be carried out in the surroundings.
Architects often avoid superimposing decorations on buildings. How did you start designing the facades?
When we joined the project, the structure was already decided upon, and the shape and size of the building came from the requirements of the robotic transport system. We were left with deciding the colours, surfaces and fenestration, so our hands were pretty much tied. We would much prefer to start design projects more in depth. The building was like a gift for which we had to come up with the wrapping paper.
We looked for inspiration not only from the environment but also from the logistics process itself, the products for sale and their history. We presented Teemu Kiiski with at least 20 different ideas for what the wrapping could be: splint baskets, woven baskets and patterns developed from them, even a chair facade.
Teemu leaned towards the timeless and more abstract concrete option. Usually, the best result comes when the customer is ambitious and demanding. We like to be challenged – that’s when quality is created.
The planning process began in spring 2020, and the building was completed already in the autumn of 2021, just over a year later. How did the speed affect the design?
Many of Avanto’s projects have gone on forever. Here, it was satisfying to see the fruits of one’s own labour so quickly. It made things easier that there was a lot of repetition in the design. When the idea for the facade had been developed, the same was repeated around the entire hall. Likewise, the same principle has been repeated in the wood and glass wall in the entrance lobby. There are also not very many different types of spaces in the building.
The tight schedule, however, meant that the facade could not be customised. We have used concrete relief before for the facades of the Kyrö Distillery’s whiskey barrel storage, where the concrete shuttering was made from the planks of an old barn. We were also exploring similar possibilities here, for example processing shingle and shake surfaces for concrete shuttering. However, we found a ready-made form liner that suited the schedule and the forest theme.
Architects often emphasise how they design buildings for people, but the logistics warehouse must also work for trucks and robots. What is it that is so particularly interesting when designing such a building, SUSANNA RANTANEN of Arkkitehtiruutu?
Making the operations efficient is key, which means that in this case the purchase orders must be dealt with quickly. The automated warehouse takes up one sixth of the warehouse space. It is a grid where little robots drive back and forth at terrifying speeds, picking up small items. Ultimately, it’s all about spatial planning and placing the building on its plot. For example, it was important here that trucks and passenger traffic are separated.
The logistics centre has achieved the second highest benchmark, Excellent, in the Breeam ratings system. What makes the building sustainable?
Sustainable development determined the design and material choices right from the outset, starting with the protection of the existing vegetation. The building gets its energy from geothermal heat and solar panels on the roof. A concrete facade has a long lifecycle. It is also possible to modify the building: the pillar-beam frame is flexible, and only light-weight partition walls have been used in the offices. ↙