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7th October 2019

Serpentine House refurbishment wins the 2019 Finlandia Prize for Architecture

Serpentine House (Käärmetalo) in the Käpylä district of Helsinki dates back to 1951 and is one of the most notable designs by Finnish architect Yrjö Lindegren.  The refurbishment was carried out by Kati Salonen and Mona Schalin Arkkitehdit Oy. The winner of the Finlandia Prize for Architecture, awarded by the Association of Finnish Architects (SAFA), was this year selected by the artist, author Hannu Väisänen.

“Designed by Yrjö Lindegren, Serpentine House is one of the highlights of Finnish architecture,” Hannu Väisänen said, commenting on Serpentine House’s architectural significance. “When an iconic building such as this falls into disrepair, and finds itself close to collapse, restoring it calls for consummate professional expertise and indefatigable commitment. The team have had to consider how to revive the near-utopian idea of high-quality public housing that underpins Serpentine House. They also needed to demonstrate how the modernist housing ideals could work in the present day and show the way for new residential developments.”

Serpentine House – building a sense of self

“In choosing this year’s winner of the Finlandia Prize for Architecture, I have used a ‘sense of self’ as my watch word,” Hannu Väisänen said of his choice. “I asked myself, what is it within architecture that allows us to develop a strong sense of self, to grow in ourselves? Of all the shortlisted candidates, it is the refurbishment of Serpentine House, which could only have been carried out by a dedicated and ambitious architect, that embodies this sense of confidence and strength.  If architecture can leave the bling aside and still instil and inspire such confidence and self-esteem, it will have achieved something very important indeed.”

Lead designer Mona Schalin praises collaborative effort at Serpentine House

The project to renovate Serpentine House’s southern residential building ran from 2016 to 2018 and was designed by Kati Salonen and Mona Schalin Arkkitehdit Oy. The approach taken by the project team was in many ways unconventional. Mona Schalin was the lead designer on the project.

“I’m delighted to say that we were able to carry out the refurbishment project under an ideal set of circumstances, with the client, developers, designer and builders all working incredibly well together. We were not faced with any difficult compromises, and the client was keen to invest in a high-specification result. Although the building is protected, we were able to work flexibly in line with the listed status.  To have the opportunity to retain the original natural ventilation system, the internal and external finishes and fittings, as we did here, is extremely rare.”

Comprising two separate buildings, Serpentine House stretches to a total length of 287 metres. Despite the buildings’ angular shape, the design has succeeded in avoiding a rigid and austere feel by setting the units that make up the buildings in a fan-like arrangement that creates a series of private and sheltered garden spaces for the residents. The development, which curves its way along Helsinki’s Mäkelänkatu, consists of a total of 189 rented properties owned by the City of Helsinki. Each of the properties has been designed as a distinct entity within the whole, providing residents with unique views of the surrounding area.

The project comprised all bathrooms, kitchens and interior surfaces, as well as the building’s roof, external rendering, balconies, doors, windows, communal areas and HVAC systems. Despite the extensive scope, the works were carried out broadly in line with the building’s listed status. The majority of the windows were repaired, the kitchen fittings were refurbished and, significantly, the original natural ventilation system was retained. This energy efficient system will continue to reduce maintenance costs and prevent indoor air quality problems in the years ahead.

Alongside the Serpentine House refurbishment project, other projects on the 2019 Finlandia Prize for Architecture shortlist were the Helsinki Central Library Oodi, the refurbishment of Jyväskylä University’s Main Building, Kruunuvuorenranta Waste Transfer Terminal and Vaaralanpuisto Day Care Centre.

Finlandia Prize for Architecture and members of the Pre-Selection Jury

The Finlandia Prize for Architecture is awarded for the design or renovation design of an outstanding new building or building complex that has been completed within the past three years. The prize may be awarded either to a Finnish or foreign architect, or to an architectural firm for a project designed for a location in Finland; or to a Finnish architect or architectural firm for a project designed for a location abroad. The recipient of the Finlandia Prize for Architecture is chosen by a public figure who is a recognised expert in an area other than architecture. The winner is selected from a shortlist of projects chosen by the Pre-Selection Jury. The purpose of the prize is to promote the appreciation of high-quality architecture and to highlight the importance of architecture in generating cultural value and increasing well-being.

This year’s pre-selection jury comprised Dr Anne Stenros (Chair), architect (SAFA), Professor Mikko Heikkinen, architect (SAFA), and Juulia Mikkola, architect (SAFA). Serving as Secretary of the Jury was Paula Huotelin, Secretary General of the Finnish Association of Architects (SAFA).

The Finnish Association of Architects (SAFA) is a non-profit professional organisation engaged in active efforts to promote architecture and high-quality living environments. Established in 1892, SAFA has approximately 3,100 members, all of whom are architects with a university degree. Additionally, SAFA has approximately 600 student members.

15th August 2019

The nominees for the 2019 Finlandia Prize for Architecture are the Helsinki Central Library Oodi, the refurbishment of Jyväskylä University’s Main Building, the Kruunuvuorenranta Waste Transfer Terminal, Phase 1 of the Käärmetalo refurbishment project and the Vaaralanpuisto Day Care Centre

The nominees for the 2019 Finlandia Prize for Architecture are the Helsinki Central Library Oodi, the restoration of Jyväskylä University’s Main Building, the Kruunuvuorenranta Waste Transfer Terminal, Phase 1 of the Käärmetalo refurbishment project and the Vaaralanpuisto Day Care Centre in Vantaa. The winner will be chosen by artist and author Hannu Väisänen. This is the sixth time that the Finnish Association of Architects (SAFA) awards the Finlandia Prize for Architecture. The winner, chosen by artist and author Hannu Väisänen, will be announced on 7 October 2019.

This year, SAFA has invited artist and author Hannu Väisänen to select the winning project. The recipient of the Finlandia Prize for Architecture is chosen each year by a public figure who is a recognised expert in an area other than architecture.

A household name in Finland, Hannu Väisänen is a highly successful, prize-winning artist. He currently resides in France. His artistic output includes a number of works that are characterised by their close connection with the architecture that surrounds them, particularly churches. These works include Linus and Terpsichore from 1996, both which are on display in the Finnish National Opera’s main foyer. Väisänen has also designed sets for a variety of stage productions, including at Savonlinna Opera Festival.

In 2007, Väisänen, who has published a total of six novels, was awarded the Finlandia Prize for fiction for his novel Toiset kengät. Alongside his other pursuits, he has also worked as a columnist for the Helsingin Sanomat and Kaleva newspapers. “Combining visual art and literature has been challenging yet artistically rewarding for me, as it’s helped me to deconstruct some of the myths that we tend to associate with creative endeavour,” he says.

The shortlist acts as a diverse showcase of contemporary Finnish architecture, comprising both publicly and privately funded new-builds, industrial buildings and refurbishment projects. “All too often architecture is viewed as just the mere backdrop to what happens inside it. It’s important to remember, however, that all architecture has the capacity to facilitate – or to stand in the way of – a better life for all of us, whether it achieves that by promoting a sense of community, by ensuring that new developments are built on a human scale or whether it makes its contribution felt through the cultural heritage we pass on to future generations, alongside the tacit knowledge carried in our building traditions. Ultimately, architecture is always about the way in which the built environment engages with human beings, how a space relates to and is relevant to those using it. Every architectural experience and encounter is defined by empathy, commitment and the opportunity for users to develop a strong sense of place. This year’s shortlisted projects speak volumes about the power and the responsiveness inherent in architecture and its capacity for making all our lives better,” commented Anne Stenros, Chair of the Pre-selection Jury.

The 2019 pre-selection jury comprised Dr Anne Stenros (Chair), architect (SAFA), Professor Mikko Heikkinen, architect (SAFA), and Juulia Mikkola, architect (SAFA). The secretariat was provided by Paula Huotelin, Secretary General of the Finnish Association of Architects (SAFA).

HELSINKI CENTRAL LIBRARY OODI

When it opened to the public in 2018, Helsinki’s Oodi central library fundamentally changed our understanding of what a library can be. Oodi is the city’s new living room, offering everything from gaming rooms to a “book heaven”. The building is split across three levels, each with its own distinct architecture, atmosphere and purpose. The open plan lobby on the ground floor gives way to workshop spaces and studios on the first floor and to the more conventional library services on offer on the top floor, in a space that is permanently bathed in light.

The building’s functions and facilities engage in an organic interplay with its structure; the steel spine that spans the length of the site from the Sanomatalo building across to Töölönlahti Park and the spruce cladding the wraps around it like a ship’s prow. Oodi’s shape allows the building to blend seamlessly into the surrounding area and represents the finishing touch on this flagship public space in the Finnish capital.

JYVÄSKYLÄ UNIVERSITY MAIN BUILDING REFURBISHMENT

Jyväskylä University’s main building is one of the most significant examples of Alvar Aalto’s red brick period.  Built in 1955, it was originally used as a teacher training college. In addition to lecture halls, laboratory spaces and other teaching and research facilities, the building comprises administrative offices, staff meeting rooms, an assembly hall and café. The building forms part of the wider Seminaarinmäki conservation area.

A comprehensive restoration in 2013–2017 was carried out by Arkkitehtitoimisto A-Konsultit in close collaboration with the Alvar Aalto Foundation and Finland’s National Board of Antiquities. In the course of the project, the assembly hall ventilation system was upgraded, the roof and flooring were replaced and the windows refurbished. The design team were committed to retaining as many original structures, materials and items of furniture as possible. With regard to the flooring, this meant that each brick had to be individually lifted, numbered and cleaned before being re-laid in their original slots, the floor structure beneath also having been replaced. All items of furniture by Alvar and Aino Aalto, Maija Heikinheimo and Ilmari Tapiovaara were restored.

KRUUNUVUORENRANTA WASTE TRANSFER TERMINAL

Built in 2017, the waste transfer terminal in Helsinki’s Kruunuvuorenranta district uses an underground network of pipes to collect household waste from the newly-built residential area nearby. The waste received at the terminal is then transferred into containers before being transported off-site for further processing. The building’s rough-hewn and irregular shape and green roofs allow it to blend effortlessly into the surrounding rock while making an exciting addition to the surrounding streetscape.

The cladding that envelops the building takes it cue from the multicoloured lichen that covers the towering rocks behind it. The three-dimensional, geometric finish is reminiscent of origami and has been skilfully executed using concrete elements stained with a warm, rust-toned patina. The Kruunuvuorenranta waste transfer terminal demonstrates that technical structures and buildings also have the potential to make an important aesthetic contribution to their environment. The waste transfer facility is designed by Arkkitehtuuritoimisto B & M Oy.

KÄÄRMETALO REFURBISHMENT, PHASE 1

Serpentine House in the Käpylä district of Helsinki dates back to 1951 and is one of the most notable designs by Finnish architect Yrjö Lindegren. Comprising two distinct residential buildings, it extends across a total length of 287 metres.  Despite the buildings’ angular shape, the design succeeds in avoiding a rigid and austere feel by setting the units that make up the buildings in a fan-like arrangement that creates a series of private and sheltered garden spaces for the residents. The complex, which curves its way along Mäkelänkatu, consists of a total of 189 rented properties owned by the City of Helsinki. Each of the properties has been designed as a distinct entity within the whole, providing residents with unique views of the surrounding area. The chief designers for the project were Mona Schalin and Kati Salonen at Mona Schalin Oy.

The refurbishment of the residential south wing, which took place between 2016 and 2018, was carried out in line with current conservation policy throughout. The project comprised all bathrooms, kitchens and interior surfaces, as well as the building’s roof, external rendering, balconies, doors, windows, communal areas and HVAC systems. Most notably, the original natural ventilation system was retained. This energy efficient system will help to reduce maintenance costs and prevent indoor air quality problems in the future.

VAARALANPUISTO DAY CARE CENTRE

Completed in 2017, Vaaralanpuisto is a “big small” building that creates a quiet and sheltered setting for children attending day care there. AFKS Architects (Jari Frondelius, Jaakko Keppo, Juha Salmenperä, Jalo Sippola and Maija Viljanen) have created a design that, both in terms of its mass and materials, complements the size and scope of the site, which comprises two distinct outdoor areas. Tree preservation orders were placed on the mature trees found on the site to protect them during construction. The warm tones, the generous use of wood and the undulating shape of the structure all invite playful engagement, or even exploration by climbing. One of the aims for the design was to create an energy-efficient day care facility that was as close to the zero-energy standard as possible.

The horizontally and vertically undulating shapes that ripple across the interiors reflect the exterior aesthetic. The learning areas are open plan but more secluded spaces for small group activities have been created in areas where the building’s spatial flow naturally allows for a greater degree of calm and quiet, both visually and in terms of sound. Staff based at the day care centre have praised the building for its aesthetic diversity and richness.

1st October 2018

Finlandia Prize for Architecture awarded to New Children’s Hospital in Helsinki

The shortlist for the fifth Finlandia Prize for Architecture featured the Amos Rex art museum, Lallukka Artists’ Residence, the New Children’s Hospital, Helsinki University’s Think Corner and Tuupala Timber School. The 2018 winner was chosen by forensic orthodontist Helena Ranta.

Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District’s New Children’s Hospital was designed by SARC Architects and Architect Group Reino Koivula, comprising Antti-Matti SiikalaSarlotta NarjusSakari Forsman and Susanna Kalkkinen. The team’s approach focused on the hospital’s young patients and their families, placing them at the centre of the design process throughout. Fresh and innovative, the end result represents an entirely new departure for hospital design.

“It is wonderful that a patient and family centred design process has also succeeded in delivering an architecturally ambitious result worthy of this incredible honour,” said Antti-Matti Siikala, the project’s chief designer.

Young patients and their families at heart of design process

The facilities and services at the New Children’s Hospital are designed to make life easier for children and families, many of whom will be facing a difficult and worrying time when they visit.

“Painted on the wall of the hospital’s entrance foyer are the words ‘Working together, for the safety and comfort of every child’  in Finland’s two official languages, Finnish and Swedish. This is a motto that I believe we can all live by.  The children now have a hospital, where every single detail has been carefully and thoughtfully considered with their health and wellbeing in mind,” explained Helena Ranta.

“The New Children’s Hospital has been an exceptional project in many ways, but what truly makes it stand out is how immersed the design team has been in every aspect of the process, from considering the building’s impact on the wider urban environment to focusing on getting even the smallest interior details just right. We created our own fictional narrative to shed light on the actual experience that patients and visitors would have at the hospital. It was intended to support and inform our design work and ensure that we were well equipped to do our best across the wide variety of different interiors,” Siikala says, describing the design process.

The New Children’s Hospital opened on 17 September.

Prize highlights cultural capital inherent in architecture

“Fascinating” and “challenging” is how Helena Ranta describes her task of selecting the winner of this years Finlandia Prize for Architecture.

“Although they are very different, the five shortlisted projects all represent the finest in Finnish contemporary architecture, reflecting an entirely new level of openness and engagement with the ever-evolving world around them.”

The projects shortlisted for this year’s Finlandia Prize for Architecture have all succeeded in widening participation in the urban environment and making it more accessible for a diverse range of people. Amos Rex has begun to integrate into the open urban space in the Finnish capital, while the Tuupala Timber School is delivering quality, beauty and a better user experience for its students. In responding to popular demand for new opportunities for learning and engagement, Think Corner is helping to make science more accessible, whereas the Lallukka Artists’ Residence has been created exclusively with artists in mind.

“Artificial boundaries between buildings, spaces and their users of all ages are there to be brought down, and barriers are there to be lowered – what matters is ensuring that the spaces we create are responsive and adaptable to our changing needs. The teams behind the shortlisted buildings were rightly proud of their nominations,” Ranta concluded.

30 August 2018

The shortlist for the 2018 Finlandia Prize for Architecture includes Amos Rex, Lallukka Artists’ Home, Think Corner, Tuupala Wooden School and the New Children’s Hospital

This is the fifth time that the Finnish Association of Architects (SAFA) awards the Finlandia Prize for Architecture. The 2018 finalists – Amos Rex Art Museum, Lallukka Artists’ Home, Think Corner, Tuupala Wooden School and the New Children’s Hospital – provide a fine example of diversified contemporary architecture and repair planning. The winner will be selected by forensic orthodontist Helena Ranta and announced on 1 October.

Winner selected by forensic orthodontist Helena Ranta

The recipient of the Finlandia Prize for Architecture is chosen by a public figure, who is a recognised expert in an area other than architecture. The person invited to serve in this function this year is forensic orthodontist Helena Ranta.

“It’s a highly interesting assignment. I travel a lot and whenever possible I take time to tour architecture sites. For example, there’s a lot of art nouveau architecture in the Balkans. This year’s candidates share little commensurability, which makes the selection all the more challenging,” Helena Ranta says.

The built environment affects human interaction, wellbeing and one’s entire life. The influence exerted by architecture only increases when decisions are made on the allocation of public funds. Through her work, Ranta has accumulated extensive human experience and understanding. SAFA wanted a selector who is able to interpret current social meanings and needs from a human point of view.

“It’s interesting to hear Helena Ranta’s views on architecture, what issues and values she raises, what makes an impression on her and why she thinks architecture is significant,” says Henna Helander, President of the Finnish Association of Architects SAFA.

Candidates represent an architecture that plays an active role in Finnish culture

“This year’s shortlist provides an overview of contemporary architecture that is not just a ‘framework for activities’ but an active and activating part of Finnish culture. Sound architecture creates new and innovative operating environments. Premises that contribute to wellbeing help people recover or offer consolation as well as spaces in which art acquires new dimensions. A built environment of the highest standard is added value that enriches our daily life. At the same time, the candidates reflect, in a highly interesting way, the current transition away from hierarchical structures towards transparency and a civic society,” says Hannu Huttunen, Chair of the Pre-selection Jury of the Finlandia Prize for Architecture.

The Amos Rex Art Museum, due to open to the public on 30 August, is the handiwork of JKMM Architects (Asmo Jaaksi, Freja Ståhlberg-Aalto, Katja Savolainen and Päivi Meuronen). The exhibition area, most of which is located underground, creates a fascinating architectonic ‘cave system’ executed in an airy and simple fashion. Large skylights provide an indirect link to the external urban space, letting natural light into the lobby areas. The free geography of the skylights creates a “natural landscape” in the yard, engaging the existing architecture in a pleasant dialogue. Main access to the museum is via the entrance doors of the old Bio Rex Cinema while the building’s interior has been skilfully redone to make it an integral part of the museum experience.

The Lallukka Artists’ Home, completed in 1933 and designed by architect Gösta Juslen, is hailed as one of the landmarks of Finnish functionalism. Still used for its original intended purpose, this residential and studio building was listed in 2012 under the Building Protection Act. A major renovation project was carried out during 2012–2017 that helped secure the future of this valuable building and the artist community. The repair plans were made with due regard to the building’s original, powerful architecture. The repairs were designed by Freese Oy Architects (Simo Freese, Eva Knif and Anu Halme), while the restorative colour scheme for the common areas was selected by Professor Wilhelm Helander.

The university’s old administrative building, originally designed by architect Toivo Korhonen in 1977, was completely refurbished in 2017 to convert it into the Think Corner, according to the plans prepared by JKMM Architects (Teemu Toivio and Asmo Jaaksi). The old building was successfully upgraded, so much so that it outshines equivalent new structures in terms of functionality. The external walls facing the street were upgraded to provide a uniform surface that reflects the facades of the surrounding buildings of historical value. Through its architecture, the Think Corner Building in downtown Helsinki does an excellent job in supporting the idea of a new type of versatile science hub with a low entry threshold.

The Tuupala Wooden School and Day Care Centre in Kuhmo, designed by Alt Architects (Antti Karsikas, Ville-Pekka Ikola, Tuomas Niemelä and Kalle Vahtera) and Architecture Office Karsikas (Martti Karsikas), is a fine example of practical construction that provides a framework in which children and their educators work on a daily basis. The building consists of simple, cube-shaped, wood-clad masses and outbuildings. In several places indoors, the wooden surface of the locally produced CLT units is left exposed. The Tuupala Wooden School is a reminder that it is also possible to create inspiring and holistically healthy environments through projects that do not involve any major financial interests in terms of use.

The New Children’s Hospital of the Helsinki Uusimaa Hospital District, designed by SARC Architects and Architect Team Reino Koivula (Antti-Matti Siikala, Sarlotta Narjus, Sakari Forsman and Susanna Kalkkinen), will open in September. Unlike traditional hospitals, the New Children’s Hospital focuses on creating a pleasant environment for the child patients and their parents, ensuring smooth daily activities. Despite the large size of the New Children’s Hospital, its architecture underlines transparency, a close contact with the environment and due consideration for children as a special patient category. In terms of scale, the building is skilfully fitted into a complex setting while the colour scheme, both inside and outside, is both bold and positive.

This is the fifth time that the Finnish Association of Architects (SAFA) awards the Finlandia Prize for Architecture. The winner will be announced at the award ceremony in Helsinki on 1 October.