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Verstas Architects, ACRE Aalto University Campus & Real Estate

Interwoven: Learning and Shopping in the Väre University Building

The master plan developed by Aino and Alvar Aalto for the university in the 1940s foresaw a campus with the character of a village. Small buildings that fit into the topography stand in clusters to form an institution. Apart from the Aaltos, other Finnish architects such as Heikki and Kaija Sirén, as well as Reima and Raili Pietilä, realized buildings on the Otaniemi Campus in the 1960s.

However, a larger structure was needed to serve as a new main building for Aalto University. To this end, Verstas Architects designed a building with a segmented façade that folds at many points, giving the impression that several smaller buildings have joined together. The Väre Building stands opposite the one designed by the Aaltos. Together, the two structures encompass a new plaza that brings a sense of urbanity to the green grounds. A tram line that is slated to stop here has already been included in the planning.

Inside, the building then surprises with its unexpected spaciousness. Four-storey atria featuring free-standing stairways serve the students as studios and lounges. The structure is home to the faculty of art, design and architecture as well as that of economics. In the floor plan, the spaces look like braided strands. The overall concept is intended to enable chance encounters and thus promote innovative ideas. In other words, the architecture could well lay the foundation for the next creative start-up.

Yet, braiding requires at least three strands. In this case, the third strand is represented by the A bloc shopping centre, which is also located in the main building. A supermarket, restaurants, bars, shops and a fitness studio fulfil a long-standing desire for infrastructure in the area outside Helsinki.

Various factors give testimony to a certain awareness of ecological responsibility. On the one hand, the integration of public transport with the underground station takes a step away from car traffic - indeed, the building was symbolically erected on a former parking lot. On the other hand, a heat pump supplies the spaces with 90% of the required warmth. Moreover, electricity from solar panels mounted on the roof flows into the system, and it was possible to recycle 75% of the construction waste.

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Further information:

Team: Jussi Palva, Väinö Nikkilä, Riina Palva and Ilkka Salminen, Aapo Airas, Aino Airas, Heidi Antikainen, Otto Autio, Anna Björn, Kari Holopainen, Erik Huhtamies, Anna Juhola, Jukka Kangasniemi, Saara Kantele, Pyry Kantonen, Sari Kukkasniemi, Emma Kuokka, Oksana Lebedeva, Johanna Mustonen, Ville Nurkka, Arto Ollila, Milla Parkkali, Miguel Pereira, Pasi Piironen, Teemu Pirinen, Anna Puisto, Aleksi Räihä, Pekka Salminen, Lauri Salo, Katri Salonen, Juhani Suikki, Maiju Suomi, Anniina Taivainen, Tuulikki Tanska, Ilkka Törmä (Design Team), Soile Heikkinen (Landscape architect), Tero Hirvonen, Karola Sahi (Interior designer)
Project manager: Mikko Rossi
Costs: Ca. 140 Million €
Competition: April 2012 – August 2013 (1. place)
Groundbreaking: January 2016
Area: 45400 m²

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