5 / 2017 - pietilä, dipoli, rcr

"It is possible to simultaneously set roots in a specific place and still remain open to the world," says architect Carme Pigem in her interview. She also talks about nature, beauty, ecological sustainability and spaces that speak to everyone. Pigem works at RCR Arquitectes, which received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2017. The list of projects by this office, based in a small town in Catalonia, proves that architecture need not bend into uniformity under the pressure of today’s globalism, as has been the case, for example, with entertainment culture. In his column, the Beijing-based architect Zhang Ke, the recipient of this year’s Alvar Aalto Medal, makes a clear distinction between commercial and spiritual architecture. Crossing over boundaries is the theme of this issue. The articles discuss present and recent history, Finland and Japan, Le Corbusier and China.

Carme Pigem’s ideas about openness and commitment to a place serve as a fitting parable describing the development of Finnish architecture. The forms, materials and ideologies within Finnish architecture have varied throughout independent Finland’s 100-year history, but keeping our minds open to international innovations is an element that has carried through the decades. Our best-known architects, including Eliel Saarinen, Alvar Aalto and Viljo Revel, were deeply aware of international trends and allowed them to inform their work. Architect Reima Pietilä (1923–1993), who was known for his unique buildings, explored “local cultural traits” for alternatives for technological culture as paths towards development. Yet Pietilä’s ideas, too, were conceived in dialogue with ongoing international trends and debates. The opening article presents a new interpretation of the interactive process behind his ideas. Pietilä’s previously unpublished article "The climatic year" (1955) shows how his ideas about locality are again surprisingly relevant. Dipoli student centre (1966), which was one of Raili and Reima Pietilä’s main works and a controversial landmark building in the 1960s, has now been fully renovated and modernised and is introduced in this issue.


Preamble at the CIAM Helsinki meeting, April 1955

The climatic year has in each respective locality its own specific, characteristic components. It is dependent on geographic latitude as well as general geographic relationships: the height above the sea level, continental climate, and vegetation. It is constituted by the climatic cycle determined by the successive seasons. What are the special features of the seasons in each location, and how are they manifested and related to each other? The microclimate is perhaps a more important factor than is usually thought to be the case. Its utilisation in some simple old farmhouse can be effective, but finding out how it has occurred is more difficult. The only thing that gets noticed is the harmony of the dwellings and buildings and their correct adaptation for every season. The question then is equally about man’s own adaptation and ability to accommodate himself to the circumstances.

If we say Helsinki – latitude: 65°N – Baltic Sea – Altitude 0–35m, then we are roughly defining the microclimate we live in. But it seems to me that on such a basis we do not yet know much about Helsinki’s climate or, let’s say, its atmosphere. If we add to this the visual reality that surrounds us, connected with and as mediated by the views of the landscape by means of which the inhabitants of Helsinki perceive their climate, then it seems that the above definition is completely stereotypical and dull.

How could we understand Helsinki’s climate as a whole, other than by experiencing it on a daily basis, by living in it year in and year out, by seeing what sort of light there is in the mornings and evenings, and on its most beautiful days, its ugliest weather, its autumn and spring, and its best winter weather? Unknowingly, people "grow" into their atmosphere, the atmospheric specificities, and like and enjoy such nuances and "aromatic" subtleties that cannot be replicated by any other means than poetry, but which are nevertheless just as real and necessary for man's spiritual existence as vitamins are for the physical body.

People living in farmhouses do not need vitaminised nutrients, just as "atmospheric vitamins" are unnecessary for their well-being. They get these too directly from nature. But how is it with those numerous Helsinki residents living on or above the first floor, whose connection to the outside world and the panorama of the seasons is through a standardised window? I suppose that it is not only the window format and frame profile that are standardised, but also the way in which the instrument in question informs us of the changing views of the outside world. Maybe they too become standardised in some way or other?

If a person had the opportunity to choose, he would certainly adapt his life flexibly in accordance with the seasons, even in urban conditions. But he is a prisoner of his circumstances. Adapted to the constraints imposed by his standardised dwelling, he has ceased to understand that which he lacks. He has lost his most sensitive feel for nature, the instinctive necessity to react to seasonal fluctuations, thus remaining largely deprived of its vitalising effects. In terms of the life-rhythmic balance, periodicity is of great importance, even within such a large framework that the seasons form. It is actually the main cycle, which man’s cultural-operational scheme naturally follows.

But if we would like to participate in the "dance" of the seasons from our own dwelling located on or above the first floor – taking from autumn, spring, summer and winter just their positive sides – how could this happen? Should we not make some radical changes to the exterior wall, the wall that separates us from the effects of nature? Like the Wise Men of Gotham, we cannot in our enthusiasm venture to tear down all the walls, but have to come up with other means.

Some suggestions:
1. The objective is a dwelling where the residents can participate actively in the seasonal changes according to their personal needs and desires. In other words, using the same floor plan it must be possible to create both a summer and winter dwelling. One should be able to characterise the interior’s use, openability, light access and spatial division in two different ways.
2. One should then start by looking at the building itself and aim for a comprehensive solution.
3. The structures, the load-bearing frame, should already be "oriented". By that I don’t mean orientation north to south or east to west, but rather the focus is on the form of the structural part itself, on its shaping, as a suitable base for attaching the "climatic elements".
3. With the architectonic ascendency in the height dimension, the perception occurring in the artistic-intuitive space should find contact with air-light space, the micro-climate, so as to remain in harmony with the local "spirits of the air", and so that the local characteristics become nuanced in the building’s form, materials, and colours.
4. Above all, the building should be reactive to light.
5. Various parts of buildings should develop more towards mobility, motion and interchangeability.
6. A particular development phase would entail the creation of indoor and outdoor furniture, and we could thus rearrange our facades at the same time as we undertake the transition indoors to summertime use.
7. Then the old system of "putting the spares in the attic" can be applied, extending even to the replacement of entire facade sections, by replacing opaque elements with transparent ones, and by attaching different light filters to the sides of them.
8. One can also consider a specific basic element, to which accessories are added.
9. There is no air conditioning, but the air is cooled using the aforementioned means. ark

renovation of Aalto University´s Dipoli building
architects Juho Grönholm, Antti Nousjoki, Janne Teräsvirta, Samuli Woolston
address Otakaari 24, Espoo
gross area 12 442 m2
completion 2017
original building Raili & Reima Pietilä 1966

photos Tuomas Uusheimo, Marc Goodwin
commentaries Olli-Paavo Koponen, Jonas Malmberg

passenger terminal
architects Tuomas Silvennoinen, Pekka Mäkelä, Emanuel Lopes, Hanna Eskelinen
address Tyynenmerenkatu 14, Helsinki
gross area 12 910 m2
completion 2017

photos Kari Palsila, Marc Goodwin
commentary Roy Mänttäri

Center for Systems Biology Dresden
partner offices Architektenwerkgemeinschaft Weinbrenner-Single-Arabzadeh, Wörner Traxler Richter Planungsgesellschaft
address Photenhauerstraße 108, Dresden
gross area 4 415 m2
completion 2017
original building Heikkinen-Komonen Architects 2001

photos Jussi Tiainen
commentary Friederike Meyer

Näköislehti: Site Logic