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5th October 2020

Helsinki Olympic Stadium refurbishment announced as winner of the 2020 Finlandia Prize for Architecture

Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium and tower count among the city’s best-known landmarks. Designed by K2S and NRT architects, this year’s winning project comprised the refurbishment of the historic stadium structure and the addition of a multi-purpose extension and new roofing for the stadium’s distinctive curved stands. The winner was chosen by musician and actor Paula Vesala. The prize is awarded annually by the Association of Finnish Architects (SAFA).

A stylish and historically astute approach to conservation and refurbishment

Commenting on her choice of winner, Paula Vesala said she wanted to thank the professionals involved in the Olympic Stadium refurbishment project for their stylish and historically astute approach to conservation.

“This national monument is not a statue that people turn up merely to look at. Within its walls, people experience some of the most extraordinary moments of their lives; incredible highs, long days of training, sweat, disappointment, euphoria, victories and defeats. Every effort has been made to meet the needs of the vast and diverse group of people that visit this building, whilst also respecting its remarkable heritage,” Paula Vesala says.

“As you explore the newly renovated spaces, you find yourself pausing to admire the attention paid to even the smallest detail, the materials carefully chosen for the newly created underground training facilities and the stunning historic structures like the original stands, the preservation and refurbishment of which alone represent an architectural feat of truly heroic proportions.  The new structures complement the Olympic Stadium but do so subtly and unobtrusively, elegantly highlighting its original and more recently added features.”

“The stadium’s logistics and general user-friendliness have taken a significant leap forward, but what is particularly impressive is the preservation and restoration of this magnificent structure, carried out with great care and the utmost respect for its original aesthetic and spirit. The team responsible for the project have succeeded in not just retaining but enhancing the magic of Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium.”

An engaging and user-friendly structure

A 1933 design competition to create what was to become a shrine to Finnish sport was won by Yrjö Lindegren and Toivo Jäntti. The building has been used for a variety of purposes over the years and experienced many rounds of renovation prior to this latest project.  

“The newly renovated Olympic Stadium – a national monument in the heart of Helsinki – represents the finest in Finnish Olympic architecture. This is a building that has been built to last. The challenge for us was to produce an end result that would be both engaging and user-friendly, where the old and new spaces, always designed to align with their intended uses, complement one another seamlessly, right down to the smallest detail,” commented project lead designers Kimmo Lintula (K2S) and Kari Raimoranta (Arkkitehdit NRT Oy).

“Our international partners, Wessel de Jong from the Netherlands and White Architects from Sweden along with the Finnish specialists we worked with, brought a new depth to the solutions you see here today. We enjoyed seamless working relationships with the officials and stakeholder groups involved in the project, and we’re particularly pleased at our experience of working together with the staff from the National Board of Antiquities. Everyone involved in the project was in no doubt of the scale of the challenge we faced,” they added.

“We like to think that, with this project, we were entrusted with a relay baton. It is now our turn to pass it on, with the hope that it is never dropped along the way.”

Architectural design was carried out by Kimmo Lintula, Niko Sirola and Mikko Summanen at K2S and by Kari Raimoranta, Teemu Tuomi, Tom Lindholm, Juuso Hatakka, Emmi Jääskeläinen and Jouni Karttunen at NRT. The project architects were Juha Sundqvist (K2S) and Tom Lindholm (NRT).

 The other shortlisted nominees for this year’s Finlandia Prize for Architecture were Aalto University’s new campus complex in Otaniemi, Espoo; K-Kampus in Kalasatama, Helsinki, and the Toritalo residential building in Kotka.

About the 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 Professor Tuomo Siitonen and architects Simo Freese and Teemu Hirvilammi, along with Saija Hollmén, architect and Professor of Practice in Humanitarian Architecture at Aalto University. The secretariat was provided by 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 around 600 student members.


2nd September 2020

Winner of Finlandia Prize for Architecture 2020 to be chosen by musician Paula Vesala

The candidates shortlisted for the 2020 Finlandia Prize for Architecture are K-Kampus office building, Helsinki; Toritalo residential building, Kotka; Olympic Stadium refurbishment, Helsinki; and Aalto University’s new campus building, Otaniemi.

The winner of the coveted Finlandia Prize for Architecture will this year be chosen by Finnish musician and actress Paula Vesala. This is the seventh time the award will be presented by the Finnish Association of Architects (SAFA). The winner will be announced on 5 October 2020.

The recipient of the Finlandia Prize for Architecture is chosen each year by an influential public figure who is a recognised expert in an area other than architecture. Paula Vesala’s music is characterised by its distinctive blend of artistic ambition and popular appeal. A versatile and multifaceted artist, Vesala’s work was recognised with the Juha Vainio Award in 2016. Three years later, she became the first woman to be presented with the Reino Helismaa song lyric award. She is also the only woman to have been nominated for both an Emma music award and a Jussi film industry award.

Nominees reflect timeless values of architecture

The choice of Finlandia Prize for Architecture nominees has this year been made against the backdrop of the global coronavirus outbreak. Due to the current visiting restrictions, schools, day care centres and other care settings as well as projects outside of Finland have been precluded from consideration but are expected to be eligible for inclusion next year.

“This year’s shortlisted candidates represent the timeless values of architecture in a way that is fresh and relevant; well lit, thoughtfully designed and capable of meeting the needs of both people and place,” commented Tuomo Siitonen, Chairman of the Pre-selection Jury.

He was joined on the pre-selection jury by architects Simo Freese and Teemu Hirvilammi along with Saija Hollmén, architect and Professor of Practice in Humanitarian Architecture at Aalto University. The secretariat was provided by Paula Huotelin, Secretary General of the Finnish Association of Architects (SAFA).

K-Kampus office building

K-Kampus by JKMM Architects from 2019 is the new head office for Finnish retail giant Kesko in Helsinki’s Kalasatama district. The building reflects the latest developments in workplace design: building users can flexibly choose their own desk each day from a range of workstations situated at the front of the building. The generously appointed entrance and social areas, complete with cafés and restaurants, create a cleverly designed, three dimensional space that visually defines the foyer. The colour scheme and materials choices are characterised by their restraint and have been chosen to maximise light. The building’s geometric forms have been paired with warm and natural materials, creating an aesthetic that seamlessly spans everything from the smallest details to the building’s entire exterior. Architectural methods are employed to communicate positive messages about the company’s values to staff and visitors alike.

Toritalo Kotka residential building

Toritalo, built in the seaside town of Kotka to a design by Jani Prunnila in 2019, is an excellent example of how contemporary architecture can be used to complement well-established urban environments. Thanks to its stylish and confident presence, the new residential development settles harmoniously among the surrounding buildings, which represent a range of stylistic periods. The foyer excels at connecting the historic courtyard at the rear with the cobbled market at the front.

The excellent working relationship between client and architect has resulted in sensitive and skilful decision making. Their chosen solutions add a new layer to the history of this area and serve to both maintain and enhance the sense of cohesion that characterises the blend of urban stone and wood architecture already present here. Toritalo has been built using ordinary materials, but the accomplished design and the commitment to honouring the area’s local heritage elevate this development beyond its modest scale.

Helsinki Olympic Stadium refurbishment

Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium and tower, based on a winning design by Yrjö Lindegren and Toivo Jäntti from 1933, count among Helsinki’s best-known landmarks and are the most important of the city’s Olympic buildings. The building has been used for a variety of purposes over the years and experienced many rounds of renovation prior to this latest project. Alongside the project’s technical, financial and functional aspects, the team responsible for the refurbishment also undertook a careful theoretical analysis of the wider conservation context, the benefits of which are clearly reflected in the outcome.

Despite the scale of the alterations required, the Olympic Stadium has retained its distinctive clean lines and architectural identity that has evolved over the decades. The new streamlined roof structure is a particular highlight. The architects’ achievement has been to accommodate even the most challenging requirements set out in the design brief in a sympathetic manner. The team, comprising architects from Arkkitehtitoimisto K2S and Arkkitehdit NRT, have demonstrated a clear understanding of the big picture while never losing sight of the smallest details. Although the extension exceeds the original structure in scale, it also succeeds in complementing the stadium as a whole without undermining its majestic presence as part of the capital’s urban fabric.

Aalto University’s new campus building

Aalto University’s new campus complex comprises the School of Arts, Design and Architecture’s new building, titled Väre, the School of Business building, and the A Bloc shopping centre. The development is based on a winning design from 2013 by Verstas Architects.

With a spatial composition characterised by its rich materiality and a form that is articulated as a series of “buildings within buildings”, this large structure settles effortlessly into its wider context. Internally, the diverse spaces located at the intersections between the building masses facilitate social and other encounters and lend themselves to a range of multi-disciplinary uses. The distinct identities that set apart the university’s different schools are also apparent in the interiors and the materials employed here; the materials and geometries found at the School of Business accurately reflect the occupant’s wider brand image, while at Väre, the school’s enduring commitment to excellence in craftsmanship is apparent in the basement and ground floor workshops, their glass walls offering unimpeded views of the passageways that cut across the building.