SAFA

Jyväskylä University’s Main Library refurbishment wins Finlandia Prize for Architecture 2022

Filmmaker Klaus Härö has chosen Jyväskylä University’s Main Library refurbishment project as the winner of this year’s Finlandia Prize for Architecture.

Led by architect Ari Sipinen, the refurbishment gives the library a new lease of life while celebrating what is already there.

The Finlandia Prize for Architecture is awarded by the Association of Finnish Architects (SAFA).

  • Jyväskylä University Library Lähde

  • Jätkäsaari Comprehensive School, Helsinki

  • Art Sauna, Mänttä

Jyväskylä University Library Lähde

Designed by architect Arto Sipinen in 1974, Jyväskylä University’s Main Library has now undergone a refurbishment led by his son, Ari Sipinen. The library re-opened a year ago, following the completion of the renovation. The purpose of the project was to align the library to meet the university’s future needs while retaining the original spatial concept and colour scheme. The lower floors, previously used as a book repository, were repurposed. New connections have been created with the upper levels by adding new openings between the floors. The end result is a light-filled learning environment that will help to foster a sense of community.

Photos: Riikka Mäkipelkola, Joonas Lampinen, Petter Kivimäki


  • Architectural design: Arkkitehtitoimisto Sipinen Oy / Ari Sipinen
  • Client: Suomen Yliopistokiinteistöt Oy
  • Main contractor: Skanska Talonrakennus Oy
  • Location: Jyväskylä
  • Programme: 11 500 m2
  • Year of completion: 2021

STATEMENT OF THE PRE-SELECTION JURY

At the time of its completion in 1974, the Main Library at the University of Jyväskylä, designed by the architect Arto Sipinen, was the largest library of its kind in the Nordic countries when measured by the number of study spaces available. Following a refurbishment led by the architect’s son, Ari Sipinen, the library has reasserted itself as a social gathering place for students. Greater access is now available to the general public too. The library’s new name reflects the building’s renewal. It is now known as Lähde, a Finnish word meaning “spring” or “source”.

The purpose of the project was to align the library to meet the university’s future needs while retaining the distinctive atmosphere in the entrance foyer and the original spatial concept and colour scheme.

The most visible changes include the repurposing of the downstairs book repositories and their spatial amalgamation with the upper floors through the addition of new openings between the floors. The new entrance staircase draws visitors towards the entrance foyer. Insofar as the column frame allows, large new windows have been added to the facade offering views towards the campus. The original furniture has been refurbished and reupholstered using the original Jyväskylä Summer fabric. The project team’s commitment to preserving the building’s architectural and design heritage is palpable throughout. The end result is a new and updated learning environment, as light-filled as it is approachable, that will help a sense of community to thrive here. 

The library building’s significance is reflected in the fact that it forms part of the Seminaarinmäki nationally significant built cultural heritage site and is included in Docomomo’s register selection of modern Finnish architectural masterpieces. The library originally garnered attention due to its architecture and functional design concept. The accessible collections and shared social spaces were new and novel for their time and drew extensive praise. The library’s architecture is characterised by its modular concrete frame, open and interlinked floors, the light that pours in through the skylight and large windows and the well-considered palette with its blue, yellow and black and white accents that define the interiors and frontages.

In preserving these features, the refurbishment has given the “Yellow Library”, a masterpiece of 1970s public-building design, a new lease of life that organically grows from the ideas that underpin the original architecture.

Jätkäsaari Comprehensive School, Helsinki

Built following an open architecture competition in 2019, Jätkäsaari Comprehensive School assumes an important role in a new urban district currently under development in southern Helsinki. With a sharply drawn, block-like presence, it represents a fresh and exciting departure from the conventional Finnish school-building idiom. The spatial solution weaves together opportunities for different types of pedagogical provision, delivering something that is at once compact and efficient, spacious and airy.

Photos: Kuvatoimisto Kuvio, Pyry Kantonen, AOR Architects


  • Architectural design: AOR Arkkitehdit / Partners: Erkko Aarti, Kuutti Halinen, Arto Ollila, Mikki Ristola, Principal designer: Janne Kentala, Team members: Pyry Kantonen, Karola Sahi, Paul Thynell, Meri Wiikinkoski
  • Client: City of Helsinki
  • Main contractor: SRV Rakennus Oy
  • Location: Helsinki
  • Programme: 8 160 m2
  • Year of completion: 2019

STATEMENT OF THE PRE-SELECTION JURY

The comprehensive school in Helsinki’s new Jätkäsaari district is the result of an open design competition. It comprises a series of “home units”, where learning spaces, built around a central lobby, are designed to lend themselves to a variety of different educational purposes. The school has now been in use for two full academic years, and the consensus is that the spatial arrangement successfully supports the pedagogical aims in place here.  

The Jätkäsaari Comprehensive School building has an important role to play in this brand new urban district that, for the time being, remains under development. Its architecture is characterised by a wonderful sense of brightness and clarity throughout. The design and execution are both thoughtfully delivered, with exceptional attention to detail. With a sharply drawn, block-like presence, the building represents a fresh and exciting departure from the Finnish school-building idiom. The brick-clad ground floor gives the building a pleasant sense of rootedness, while the rest of the facade is executed in a lighter colour, linking the school with the built environment that surrounds it.

The facade offers a brisk interplay between window openings and unbroken frontage. The composition is skilfully done. The sophisticated use of light is further enhanced by the presence of lightwells. The architectural finishing touch here comes in the form of the school’s quirky and colourful playground that also has the task of ensuring sufficient distance between the school and the port warehouse next door, affectionately known as the Bunker. The Bunker houses indoor PE facilities for the pupils. 

Jätkäsaari Comprehensive School offers a truly exceptional learning environment for pupils. At the heart of the building is the handsome, beautifully lit central lobby. Clear sightlines connect the learning spaces and the central lobby, allowing users to orientate themselves easily. The spatial solution weaves together opportunities for different types of pedagogical provision. The feel is at once compact and efficient, spacious and airy. Familiar and recognisable, the materials used here are insightfully employed to create a distinct identity for each home unit. The designers have eschewed excess furniture, which leaves the interior wonderfully ordered and uncluttered, a rare treat, given the setting.

All in all, Jätkäsaari Comprehensive School represents an important new contribution to contemporary Finnish architecture.  

Art Sauna, Mänttä

Construction on the Art Sauna at the Gösta Museum was completed this summer. This concrete building on the banks of Lake Melasjärvi in Mänttä-Vilppula is an experience, a journey that draws on the cultural hinterlands of its creators while treating visitors to wealth of other artworks along the path. At the end of the path is the sauna, accessible through an outdoor space. The Art Sauna forms part of Finland’s new sauna culture where the tradition for calm and cleansing has been replaced by a pursuit for memorable experiences and socialising.

Photos: Marc Goodwin


  • Architectural design: Mendoza-Partida Architectural Studio / Héctor Mendoza and Mara Partida, BAX Studio / Boris Bežan, Planetary Architecture Oy / Pekka Pakkanen and Anna Kontuniemi
  • Client: The Gösta Serlachius Fine Arts Foundation
  • Main contractor: SiriusPro Oy
  • Location: Mänttä-Vilppula
  • Programme: 310 m2
  • Year of completion: 2022

STATEMENT OF THE PRE-SELECTION JURY

It was a bold move on part of the Serlachius Museum to commission the 2011 Gösta Museum competition-winning Spanish trio of architects to design a Finnish sauna for this lakefront setting. But Héctor Mendoza, Mara Partida and Boris Bezan have shown themselves equal to the challenge. Along with their Finnish colleagues Pekka Pakkanen and Anna Kontuniemi, they have delivered a building that is truly astonishing in the scale of its ambition. The spatial richness and unstinting attention to detail will leave you dumbstruck with wonder.

Executed in concrete, the building is located to the front of the Gösta Museum at Lake Melasjärvi. The choice of materials is not the only act of defiance against our national sauna-building tradition; there is plenty here that will thrust Finnish visitors, and others steeped in our decidedly archaic and log-centric culture, on an expedition towards the unexpected. For this concrete building is, above all, an experience, a journey that draws on the cultural hinterlands of its creators while treating visitors to wealth of other artworks along the path.

A path brings you to the sauna, which is accessed through an outdoor space. In the centre of the circular room stands the stove, where, traditionally, the natural elements of fire, stone, air and water would meet to give rise to the most supernatural of forces, the löyly. The Art Sauna sidesteps this sacred tradition, however: the stove has been replaced by a decidedly secular electric heater. A scent of smoke, an essential feature of the traditional sauna experience, is still present, however, emanating, as it does, from the heat-treated, curved and rounded seating. Happily, there is also a traditional fireplace to be found in the outdoor seating area.

Saunas are an inextricable part of the Finnish psyche, so much so that they were the first aspect of Finnish culture to be added to UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Art Sauna playfully wrongfoots visitors by being utterly un-Finnish, delivering a setting that is a far cry from the sooty walls and tranquillity you would perhaps ordinarily expect to see. It is unmistakeably a manifestation of Finland’s new sauna culture, where the tradition for calm and cleansing has been replaced by a pursuit for memorable experiences and socialising. In a country of three million saunas and 200 million annual sauna visits, the Art Sauna is a breath of something new, fresh and different. The execution and finishing here represent a level of quality that is truly exceptional.