3 / 2016 - structure, material, sustainability

Football and sports stadiums are venues for large audiences and great emotions. This is right now visible in the media, as the European Football Championship matches are being played out in France. Stadiums are event venues, but, at the same time, they are often displays of structurally interesting and innovative architecture. The issue takes a look at structural architecture.

Architect Mikko Summanen discusses the latest forms of structurality in the light of examples from Finland and abroad, including a venue for the championship matches – the Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux (Herzog & de Meuron, 2015). Summanen sees structurality as 'the art of necessities': beauty is not created by adding something extra special, but by utilising the parts that are necessary. He expects that the requirements set by sustainable development for materials will create novel constructivist architecture in the coming years.

In his article, architect Kimmo Lylykangas clarifies how the sustainability of a building should be evaluated. Image-based sustainability may not in reality represent any serious efforts to create sustainability, but, rather, reflects the image-building of the developer or the architects’ office. Lylykangas promotes an approach based on systems thinking as the method for evaluating sustainability, since the objective of such an approach is to understand how the entire system works. In such an evaluation, qualitative factors are more relevant than quantitative parameters.

The articles present various perspectives that exemplify the materiality of architecture. "When the structure performs its function with as little material as possible, it is a case of mind over matter", writes Professor Emeritus and experienced architect Tuomo Siitonen.

The issue presents two new football arenas in Finland. The Rovaniemi Sports Arena grandstand Railo brings a northern dimension to the game. In Tampere, the new stadium to be built in the Tammela area will 'cross the ball' over into the urban field: the blocks surrounding the football field will house apartments, and the stadium entity will complement the city structure.

Bridges are strong structural elements that also play a significant role in the cityscape. Isoisänsilta bridge in Helsinki is an elegant, arched addition to the urban landscape by the sea. The issue also presents the new, positively received headquarters of the OP Financial Group in Vallila, Helsinki. This office building renews an old city block, and the balance of materials and structures creates a new-generation working environment.


Architecture can be renewed through the equal union of structure and aesthetics. Structural innovativeness transforms necessity into a strength. In his article, architect Mikko Summanen explores the most interesting examples of contemporary constructivist architecture from Japan, Switzerland and Finland. 

The subtle entasis of the Parthenon’s columns, the coffered dome of the Pantheon, the ribs of Reims Cathedral’s groin vaults, and the Eiffel tower’s steel trusses are architectural symbols recognised by everyone. The history of architecture is saturated with buildings whose attraction is based on the aesthetics of structural solutions. Even today, a small but interesting group of architects designs buildings whose soul and identity originate from structural innovations. Just as the foundation for the beauty of a living creature is defined by its bone structure, structure is the defining factor behind beautiful and sustainable architecture. When the loadbearing frame is chosen as the main theme of a building, we are close to the fundamental questions of architecture. A building must have the elements required by construction: frame, walls, ceiling and floor – the basic elements of architecture. Structure-oriented architecture is thus an art of necessities.

Full article in the issue.

Mikko Summanen is partner in K2S Architects and teaches structures in architecture at Aalto University.


Toyo Ito, Tama University Library, 2007.
photo Ishiguro Photographic Institute

Christian Kerez, Zhengzhou Highrise I, 2011–.
photo Milan Rohrer

JKMM, Seinäjoki City Library, 2012.
photo Tuomas Uusheimo

pedestrian bridge
principal designer Juhani Hyvönen
architects Hanna Hyvönen, Teo Tammivuori
structural engineering Paavo Hassinen
address Kalasatama–Mustikkamaa, Helsinki
total length 178 m
completion 2016

commentary Tommy Lindgren
Tuomas Kaira

Rovaniemi Sports Arena
architects Aaro Artto, Teemu Palo, Yrjö Rossi, Hannu Tikka, Jussi Vakkilainen
address Ainonkatu 1, Rovaniemi
gross area 956 m2, grandstand 1 300 m2
completion 2015

commentary Anna Pekkarinen
photos Aaro Artto

OP Financial Group Headquarters
architects Asmo Jaaksi, Marko Salmela, Eero Kontuniemi, Paula Salonen
address Gebhardinaukio 1, Helsinki
gross area 132 000 m2
completion 2015

commentaries Juha Ilonen, Jussi Vuori, Mikko Ruokoniemi
photos Mika Huisman, Marc Goodwin, Tuomas Uusheimo

Tuomo Siitonen, Eero Lundén, Anssi Lassila and Roy Mänttäri were asked to write about the significance of structure and material in architecture. What these architects have in common is the strong materiality conveyed through their work.

Mind and matter

Tuomo Siitonen


Substance and structure comprise the main fundamentals of architectural problem solving, often acting as a source of inspiration, and literally supporting the artistic outcome.

The design process includes a number of stages that require logical thinking and consideration. The end result must not merely constitute a pleasing aesthetic composition, but also a sound process of thought. As well as providing a fulfilling experience for all the senses, architecture must also be able to achieve intellectual satisfaction. Alongside our increasing ecological awareness, the criteria for providing satisfaction are also developing.

In an elegant structure, components will justify themselves and each other, adhering to the laws of nature while observing an ecological economy. A structure fulfilling its purpose with minimal use of materials would be an example of mind over matter.

Scarcity of material resources gives rise to ideas. For example, post-war examples of reinforced concrete structures demonstrate how to span great widths with the least possible quantities of steel and cement. Similarly, the ingenious self-locking joints found within the Japanese building tradition enabled construction without expensive steel components.

Matter retains its own logic. Organic materials are rarely homogeneous; rates of expansion and contraction differ depending on orientation, and stress and tension are tolerated in varying fashions. The way in which a material is shaped also carries elements of tradition, defined by the available process methods.

Wood has excellent material properties; it is exceedingly tactile, and both versatile and simple to work. Its load-bearing and insulating properties mean that, in a northern climate, it is possible to leave load-bearing structures uncovered. In fact, this makes it the only appropriate choice of material in Finland when pursuing a Tectonic-Constructivist approach to architectural design.

The attraction of brick lies in a craft tradition stretching back thousands of years and in the pleasant irregularity and the strong sensuality of large stone surfaces made up, one by one, of small individual cells. Brick is durable and hard-wearing. Use of brick alone offers one of the most reliable architectural recipes. Coupled with brick, glass, thin, smooth and sharp-edged, offers a powerful contrast.

The plasticity of site-cast concrete offers an extensive range of design possibilities, creating also its own rules of behaviour. The renovation project transforming the Salmisaarentalo Alcohol Factory into a courthouse demonstrated the proficiency of modern technology to take advantage of the ecological properties of cement structures. As and when it proved necessary, the original structures were easily modified and supplemented by self-compacting additional castings.

Steel is usually at its best when the effects of gravity on the structure are successfully transformed into tensile structures, or, when, due to the high level of precision in metal fabrication, an extremely articulated structure begins to bear a resemblance to precision machinery.

Huge advances in product development linked to space technology and the arms industry are also effecting changes in civilian construction. The seven-storey-high carbon fibre rig of my own sailing boat rises from the waves intact, even after broaching in a stormy night at sea. When cordage and canvas are no longer necessarily the weakest link in sailing boat construction, the dimensions of the framework itself are having to be re-thought.

Could composite structures, the 3-D printing of building components and the related advances in material technology open up a new chapter in architectural development? Up to now, advanced technology and high planning fees have been squandered on the visualization of clumsy precast concrete elements and forms devoid of meaning. Mind has not conquered matter; architectural design has merely been replaced by slick presentation techniques that suppress both intellect and emotion. ark

All the four essays in the issue.

Tuomo Siitonen is a practicing architect and Professor Emeritus of Housing Design at Helsinki University of Technology (Aalto University).


Näköislehti: Site Logic