The philosopher Esa Saarinen has chosen Kirkkonummi Main Library, designed by JKMM Arkkitehdit, as the winner of this year’s Finlandia Prize for Architecture. The new building envelopes the original library from 1982, designed by Ola Hansson. This year’s prize is the eighth Finlandia Prize for Architecture presented by the Association of Finnish Architects (SAFA).

  • Ylivieska Church

  • The Urban Environment House

  • Fyyri, Kirkkonummi Main Library

Ylivieska Church

Ylivieska’s Holy Trinity Church was completed in spring 2021, five years after the original 18th century wooden church on the site was destroyed by fire. Charred timber from the old church has been re-claimed and used to create a cross for the site to act as a permanent reminder of the fire that destroyed it. The architecture is characterised by its clarity and simplicity; the shapes are considered and the geometries well-judged. Although the church is imbued with an almost gravitational heft, the most defining construction material here is light.

Photos: Tuomas Uusheimo

  • Architectural design: K2S Arkkitehdit / Kimmo Lintula (principal designer), Niko Sirola, Mikko Summanen, Sasu Marila (project architect), team members Mari Ollila, Matti Wäre, Iiro Virta, Anna Suominen, Matias Manninen
  • Client: The Parish of Ylivieska
  • Main contractor: Työyhteenliittymä Kotikirkonrakentajat
  • Location: Ylivieska
  • Programme: 1533 m2
  • Year of completion: 2021


Ylivieska’s new Holy Trinity Church was consecrated in spring 2021, five years after the original 18th century wooden church was destroyed by fire. The local community was deeply affected by the tragedy and joined forces to re-build their church. K2S architects were appointed to design the new structure following an open design competition. The building was designed by Kimmo Lintula, Niko Sirola and Mikko Summanen.

The church building has been re-oriented to face away from city centre traffic, creating a calm churchyard space. Charred timber from the old church has been re-claimed and used to create a cross for the site as a reminder of the fire that destroyed it. 

Confident and mature, the new church is a tribute to the designers’ consummate design flair.  The architecture is characterised by its clarity and simplicity; the shapes are considered and the geometries well-judged. The materials, too, have been chosen with care. The imposing brick cladding gives the building a coherent and cohesive appearance, while the roof beams are concealed behind strip panelling executed in a warm tone. The church hall and utility areas are a good fit and do not impair the acoustics in the nave itself. The antechamber is a warm and welcoming space that the congregation uses for social gatherings. 

While the church is imbued with what feels almost like a gravitational heft, the most important construction material used here is light. Light floods into the space through strategically located openings behind the altar and in the roof ridge, inviting those gathered there to reflect on the most timeless and universal of themes.


“The nave of Ylivieska Church makes a powerful first impression. I sense the silent majesty in the service of which all the exertions to bring it about have been made.  The design invites the eyes to gaze upwards, where the gratitude and wonder the experience evokes meet with the radiant light that appears to rush into the space from an infinite source. That boundless light is complemented by an altogether more prosaic form of illumination built into the backs of the pews where one would traditionally expect to see rows of hymnals. The holy trinity that defines this space serves to remind us of the light that shines within all of us, I find myself thinking.  Suddenly moved, I realise that my eyes are again gazing upwards. This is a space that calms and quietens the mind. It conveys spirituality without doctrine, and the magnificence and presence of a higher power is very much felt here.”

Read the full comments by Esa Saarinen

The Urban Environment House

Built in the Verkkosaari district of Helsinki in 2020, the city council’s new Urban Environment Division headquarters have been designed and built to accommodate all of the division’s departments, including workspaces and customer service facilities, under the same roof. The design succeeds in adding a new visual richness to the surrounding urban space. A series of arcades and pillared walkways anchor it firmly into place. The architects make bold and accomplished use of brick, and the end result is a truly impressive building, archaic yet modern.

Photos: Kuvatoimisto Kuvio and Marc Goodwin

  • Architectural design: Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects / Ilmari Lahdelma (principal designer), Teemu Seppälä (project architect), Minja Hildén (responsible interior architect), team members Maritta Kukkonen, Minna Lahdelma, Mikko Lahti, Tomoyo Nakamura, Wing-Hang Chan, Seija Serovuo, Olli Aarnio, Mia Salonen, Joona Hulmi, Panu Härmävaara
  • Client: City of Helsinki
  • Main contractor: Skanska Talonrakennus Oy
  • Location: Helsinki
  • Programme: 40 900 m2
  • Year of completion: 2020


Kaupunkiympäristötalo, the new headquarters for Helsinki city council’s Urban Environment Division, brings together the city’s built environment services and related customer services under one roof. The new building is in Verkkosaari, a neighbourhood that is currently undergoing significant development. Intended as a symbol for collaboration and joint working, Kaupunkiympäristötalo was paradoxically completed amid a global pandemic, and staff are now only gradually beginning to move into their new building. 

The design principles that inform the building were laid down in the detailed plan and overseen by council representatives during the project planning phase. The building was designed by Ilmari Lahdelma, Teemu Seppälä and Minja Hildén at Lahdelma & Mahlamäki. 

Featuring seven above-ground floors which open into three different directions, the design is characterised by its lively articulation which visually enriches the surrounding area. A cut has been made into the otherwise uniform urban block structure to create an open square that highlights the building’s status as a public space. At street level, the building anchors into place through a series of arcades and pillared walkways. The entrance is sheltered by these structures. From the fourth floor, the volume splits into distinct units interspersed with terraces that open out onto the street. 

Internally, the airy and spacious public areas stretch across two floors and are easy to navigate. The transition from public to restricted and private spaces is smooth and well thought-through. The office spaces are designed with a collaborative, communal feel in mind.

The materials chosen both externally and internally are traditional and hardwearing: brick, copper, glass, concrete and wood. The architects make particularly inventive and accomplished use of brick here. The end result is a truly impressive building, archaic yet modern. It is an excellent addition to Helsinki’s new generation of stone buildings. At its finest, it serves as a reminder, to its occupants, visitors and design and construction professionals alike, of the importance of quality and sustainability.


“As we move through the City of Helsinki Urban Environment Division headquarters and into the restricted areas on floors three to seven, I come across a handful of staff. They are all enthusiastic about their new place of work. That is excellent. The Covid-19 pandemic means only a limited number of employees are present here at any one time. Under normal circumstances, the building would be teeming with more than a thousand employees. As a result, it is not possible to experience this “state-of-the-art office” in action, to discover how the acoustics really work in these vast spaces, which can be glimpsed from the many high windows and which create a magnificent aesthetic effect as you move between floors. The balconies also seem carefully thought through. As this is home to more than 1,000 staff, the merits of the building boil down to the question of to what extent these new facilities succeed in supporting those people in the course of their day-to-day working lives.”

Read the full comments by Esa Saarinen

Fyyri, Kirkkonummi Main Library

The Fyyri library building in Kirkkonummi was completed in 2020. The original library, designed by Ola Hansson, has been retained and insightfully incorporated into Fyyri in its entirety. The copper-clad facades and white concrete, wood and glass interiors are unapologetically bold and have a sense of vivacity and momentum about them. Inside, a wealth of opportunities and resources await visitors.

Photos: Tuomas Uusheimo, Pauliina Salonen and Marc Goodwin

  • Architectural design: JKMM Arkkitehdit / Teemu Kurkela (principal designer), Jukka Mäkinen (project architect), team members Asmo Jaaksi, Samuli Miettinen, Juha Mäki-Jyllilä, Alli Bur, Sini Coker, Christopher Delany, Aaro Martikainen, Marko Pulli, Pekka Airaxin, Elina Törmänen, Elina Niemi
  • Client: Municipality of Kirkkonummi
  • Main contractor: EKT Infra Oy, Rakennus Omera Oy, SRV Rakennus Oy
  • Location: Kirkkonummi
  • Programme: 4 700 m2
  • Year of completion: 2020


The Fyyri library building in Kirkkonummi was completed in 2020. The principal designer was Teemu Kurkela for JKMM Arkkitehdit.

The new building envelopes the original library from 1982 designed by Ola Hansson. The original building has been retained in full and insightfully incorporated into Fyyri. 

The new Fyyri is a complete reimagining of the library as a concept, both in terms of its aesthetic and its function. The copper-clad facades and white concrete, wood and glass interiors are unapologetically bold and have a sense of vivacity and momentum about them. In Finland, the public library is a venerable yet welcoming and user-focused institution. Fyyri does an excellent job of imagining what the next few decades might have in store for it. 

The library is for everyone; all are welcome to pursue their interests here. And there is a wealth of opportunities for doing just that, with state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment, a music studio and rehearsal spaces available to visitors. There are more low-key activities, too, like sewing, storytelling and even just chilling. 

The architecture here skilfully highlights the twin raison d’être of every library ever: books and reading. The book collection is housed in an east-facing space built using tall and slender concrete structures. The periodicals room and cafe with their low ceilings and horizontal lines take their cue from Kirkkonummi’s medieval church. The design engages in dialogue with the city’s other architectures, creating a truly memorable and satisfying urban space.

The main entrance to the library is located in a spot where the historic King’s Road, Finland’s medieval highway, bends. Fyyri marks an historic point on the local map, replacing Ola Hansson’s vision with a monumental and yet unpretentious public structure, a gateway towards knowledge and community. The building forges links with the past while radiating shared meanings for the future. 


“As a person steeped in the tradition of reading, I’m a steadfast believer in the miracles that can emerge from the very depths of our soul, called forth by the books we read. I would argue that there are few sights as wonderful as someone immersed in a book, oblivious to the world around them. We all know that moment, I think, when we cast our eye over a book for the first time, and tentatively begin to explore what lies in store. That marks the moment at which we can begin to grow as humans. The onus is on us to make those moments, those opportunities for growth, available to all.  It’s not just about sharing knowledge and information, it’s about the act of tending to our very souls.  Just as a church has in its gift the ability to lend depth and intensity to our thoroughly human experience of the divine, and to affirm us in our gratitude and in our humility as we, like those that have come before us, strive and thirst for heaven, and just as the office building has the power to act as the engine for what is an entirely unstoppable and thoroughly rational flow of professional progress, so the library ensures that the very things that possess the potential to transform the life of all those who believe in the act of thinking are readily available to us.  

Libraries must change, evolve, move with the times, and that is precisely what has happened here in Kirkkonummi. Democratic by their very definition and open to all, our libraries are our agoras, porous spaces that constitute the heart of our thinking lives. Through our libraries we commit a collective act of service for the benefit of our community, we build our futures by offering everyone a space where they can think more, think different, think new, use fresh words and discover nuances, where they can escape the confines of convention, received truths and flee the rut race.  The philosophy that constitutes the library is the profoundly and enduringly relevant cornerstone on which our democracy, equality and belief in humanity all depend. If we are to grow as humans, we need to discover an alacrity of thought, new thoughts about thinking, a willingness to engage in a pursuit for greater complexity as a defence against the allure of inconsequence that threatens to flatten and reduce our humanity to a horrifically pleasant and thoroughly trivial form of barbarism.

As you walk through the doors at Fyyri you immediately enter a space guarded from above by a striking work of art, but my attention is drawn to a child-sized opening in one of the walls. Fyyri, it turns out, comes with a parallel child-height reality already built in, created, it feels, with all the gleeful joy of a five-year-old.  

Access throughout is step-free, with the spaces melding and blending into one another with a warm effortlessness.  Armed with the knowledge that the new library is built “over” the old library, I try to locate the joins between them. None are readily discernible, but what I do pick up on are a series of organic transitions, including the hugely inviting and amusing set of stairs that not only lead visitors up and down between the floors but also provide a place to sit and socialise.  The boundary between the old and the new has become a boundarilessness, the sublimely aesthetic quality of which delights me immeasurable.”

Read the full comments by Esa Saarinen