2 / 2016 - Pallasmaa, 4 x public buildings

How to secure the services of a welfare society and, at the same time, find places to cut public expenditure – these issues have become permanent fixtures on the political agenda. Municipalities are seeking cost savings in a variety of ways, and the solutions also affect the built environment. One example of this is the placement of libraries and other public services in commercial facilities. In Lappeenranta, the new City Theatre was built on the top floor of a shopping centre. The designers, ALA Architects, saw a fascinating setting: “This is exactly how the theatre would return to its roots, to the market place where people gather.” The theatre has been skilfully created, forming a unique entity within the otherwise ordinary shopping centre. The other side of the coin is that the residents’ common public spaces thus become commercialised. In the background lies an essential political question: is a city a community that takes care of its residents or a company producing services as efficiently as possible? In the early days of building the welfare society, theatres and libraries became important symbolic buildings of their era and had an important role in the urban space. This role disappears when public services are placed inside shopping centres. How important is the role of a public space in experiencing well-being and a good life? Should daycare facilities and schools also be placed within shopping centres?

This issue also introduces a daycare facility, health clinic, and university building from different parts of Finland. Public buildings of another era are presented in Tuomas Uusheimo’s photographs of Finnish community houses. Built by workers’ associations, voluntary fire brigades, civil guards, youth associations and temperance societies, these buildings depict the ideologies of their era, as well as the strong heritage of collaboration. In his column, the political opinion leader Matti Apunen wonders why planning of new areas is controlled to such detail in Finland, resulting in very similar new environments. He is hoping to see design freed from the tyranny of uniformity and this to lead to more creative diversity. In our interview, the newly appointed Director of Architecture Information Centre Finland, Hanna Harris, tells us about her plans to make this new organisation an active and influential operator equal to the corresponding centres representing other branches of art. In the opening article, “The complexity of simplicity“, the internationally renowned architecture academic Juhani Pallasmaa addresses the richness of simple form in various fields of art. Pallasmaa finds that architecture always contains contradictory, even irreconcilable, elements such as materiality and emotions, structures and aesthetics, knowledge and dreams. All these elements should be blended “through a creative process based on deep mental identification”, which is typical of art.


architects Juho Grönholm, Antti Nousjoki, Janne Teräsvirta, Samuli Woolston
address Kaivokatu 5, Lappeenranta
gross area 5 298 m2
completion 2015

Architects interviewed:
Juho Grönholm, Antti Nousjoki, Janne Teräsvirta,
Samuli Woolston

In their third theatre design, the architects had to define an approach to combining theatre with a shopping centre. The designers write about their solution.

The contract notice we received five years ago for Lappeenranta’s City Theatre caused some consternation in our office: the theatre was to be built inside a new extension to the downtown shopping centre. Cederqvist & Jäntti Architects’ design for the shopping centre was already well advanced. It would complete the “grid plan regulation” based on a deck construction, designed by Erkki Juutilainen in the 1960s (Arkkitehti 3–4/1967). Adjacent to the pedestrian deck in the grid plan is an impressive brutalist sculpture, namely the Lappeenranta City Hall (Castrén–Jauhiainen–Nuuttila 1980). In the contract notice the tenderer was particularly required to have an ability to cooperate.

The idea of placing the theatre in the shopping centre began to feel attractive. This is exactly how the theatre would return to its roots, to the market place where people gather. What should be the relation between the city theatre and the shopping centre? Some kind of contrast seemed necessary. If one strives for dramatic ostentation in a shopping centre it will simply blend into the mass. The largest contrast is achieved through emptiness. This simplification of the epic theatre tradition is often used in plays for effect: from the stage direct speech is heard set in a minimalist stage set. The inspiration for our design was drawn from such a direct narrative.

From the theatre foyer a fifty-metre long bare “proscenium arch” opens up towards the shopping centre. The theatregoers find their way from the shopping centre entrance to the monumental stairs and then climb directly into the limelight of the foyer. In the main auditorium the proscenium can be completely removed so that the theatre technical infrastructure is visible and the seating is placed at a more intimate distance than usual from the stage. The border between the backstage spaces and the audience is blurred.

The opening play in the main stage was indeed one that directly confronts the viewer, Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera. ark

commentary Roy Mänttäri
photos Tuomas Uusheimo, Jari Lifländer


Tampere University of Technology service building
architects Juha Luoma, Samppa Hannikainen, Tobias Tommila
address Korkeakoulunkatu 7, Tampere
gross area 15 084 m2
completion 2015

commentary Esa Laaksonen
photos Mika Huisman

New ideas for an agile information centre

Hanna Harris, the new director of the Architecture Information Centre Finland, tells about the future plans of the small but important centre.

The Architecture Information Centre Finland was established three years ago to promote knowledge about Finnish architecture both nationally and abroad. During these first years the centre, founded by the Finnish Association of Architects, Museum of Finnish Architecture, Alvar Aalto Foundation, Association of Finnish Architects’ Offices and Building Information Foundation, has been trying to find its place and is not very well known yet. Often people think it is part of the Museum of Finnish Architecture. The most important of the centre’s activities have so far been the fresh and well-edited websites archinfo.fi in Finnish and finnisharchitecture.fi in English. After a modest start they both have a growing number of readers.

The information centre’s situation may soon change as it now has a new director, urban researcher, curator and producer Hanna Harris, who has already built strong international networks. Bilingual Harris grew up in an architect family and in addition to Finnish and English she also speaks several other languages. She has spent long periods of time abroad, most recently in London as the Programme Director of the Finnish Institute in London from 2008 till 2013. Furthermore, she has worked as a journalist, produced various events and projects, handled communications duties as well as conducted research and lectured at universities in Finland and abroad. Before transferring to the Architecture Information Centre she worked as Programme Director of Helsinki Design Week.

An instrument, network and forum

What is Harris going to do first as the Director of the Architecture Information Centre?

“I am going to engage in an active dialogue with both our founding member organisations and the architecture field at large.. I want to know what is going on and what is expected of the centre. In the coming years, it is crucial to build and strengthen our profile whilst developing our activities so that what we do brings added value to Finnish architecture and urban design. International activities are one area of development. Being small and agile, the centre can kick new things off and combine the things that already exist in a fruitful manner. It is often about acting as a catalyst,” Harris says. “I am also going to further familiarise myself with the activities and achievements of other information centres,” she continues.

Music Finland has, in various disguises, been in existence since 1963 and literature has been promoted by FILI since 1977. The theatre, visual arts, circus and the filmmaking industry also have similar organisations. The role of these centres as promoters of the respective industries is well known. Music Finland, for example, has been able to send Finnish composers’ music to different parts of the world to be performed by musicians. Its achievements in promoting Finnish music are unquestionable. The centres may also give financial support for activities abroad. This is not yet possible for the Architecture Information Centre, but perhaps in the future.

“The activities within different areas of culture are, of course, not identical but you can always learn and obtain ideas from the experiences of other fields. The centre could also be seen as an instrument, network and forum for different things to happen. We also act as a place for collaboration and dialogue with the rest of the cultural field. Some of our activities are clearly targeted abroad and some focus on more domestic aspects. Often the two cannot be separated.”

The starting point for promoting contemporary Finnish architecture is favourable. Finnish architecture has a good reputation abroad, even if it is mainly based on Alvar Aalto or Eliel Saarinen’s international fame. While riding the crest of this wave, one can always tell that remarkable architecture is still being created here. Finnish urban planning and our architectural competition system also arouse interest.

Harris believes that the centre could even play a role in promoting Finnish architects’ career opportunities abroad. However, at first, the most crucial task is to increase interaction and knowledge. “Finnish cultural institutes abroad are important,” Harris stresses. She adds that during her years in London she also worked with architecture a lot. “What all this mainly requires is getting out there and interacting with people. We need good timing, background research and commitment building. Not everything costs a lot of money; good ideas and interactions can go a long way too.”

International exhibitions, like the Venice Architecture Biennale opening this summer, are important forums for the centre. Harris, who is fluent in Italian, is excited about the Biennale. “I feel honoured to be in this position. I can say that I genuinely care about the future of Finnish architecture.” ark

photos Niclas Mäkelä


Näköislehti: Site Logic