Quality criteria for Jätkäsaari district also visible in the facades

Sep 27, 2017

Dense urban construction is designed to create vibrant areas, where the environmental impacts of living and traffic are minimized. A vibrant area is always composed of people, services and activities. When enough people live in an area, the shops, cafes and other services there can thrive.  Cities are changing. In Helsinki, for example, two former harbour areas are rapidly turning into residential and commercial centres.

From Finlandia to Jallukka by Talli

Pia Ilonen has been an architect for 25 years and is one of the founders of Talli Architects.  The office was founded for the Lasipalatsi restoration project. Lasipalatsi is a historic building in central Helsinki. Talli Architects has a team of 11 architects and 2 interior designers and specializes in high-profile projects, such as the restoration of Finlandia Hall and historic buildings. The portfolio includes schools, nurseries and also housing. 

Pia Ilonen and Talli have developed a ’raw space’ concept for apartment blocks, meaning customers buy the outside walls of their home, and the rest – the rooms, materials etc. – is up to them.

“In housing, rather than going for mainstream production we have chosen to specialize, like the Jallukka project in Jätkäsaari. The building is rented housing for musicians and was commissioned by the Elmu Live Music Foundation”, Pia Ilonen says.

Talli and Elmu began to work together on designing Jallukka seven years ago. The Y-Foundation partnered with Elmu as the developer. By February 2017 the building has reached its full height and the facade cladding is being installed.

When rust is beautiful

The facades of Jallukka to the west and on Malagankatu street are being clad with Ruukki Cor-Ten facade profiles. Cor-Ten is weatherproof uncoated steel cladding that forms a protective layer of patina over time.

“The facades also feature hand-thrown Danish brick and concrete. The Cor-Ten steel cladding is just right for a building housing musicians and roadies. It’s a bit more rugged and heavy. What matters is the overall effect, not an individual material,” Pia Ilonen says. 

Cor-Ten isn’t a very common facade material in Finnish residential buildings. However, Cor-Ten can be seen in places including the Sitra office tower in Helsinki and the Paulig factory in Helsinki’s Vuosaari district. In northern Finland, it is a familiar sight in the facade of the City of Oulu’s environment centre. The product manufacturers can assist architects to design new facades – this was the case with Jallukka.

“We got good design assistance from Ruukki, for example with the fixing details. We always liaise with the manufacturers of materials and we dimension the product together”, Pia Ilonen says.

Municipalities as chaperones

Large new residential districts, such as Jätkäsaari, are keeping architects busy. Pia Ilonen also sees risks in districts that are built almost all at once. You have to be discerning and ensure that the area is functional and vibrant and forms a visual entity.

“At first Jätkäsaari seemed a bit like the wild west, with every building different, but as the area is built up the more the buildings dovetail with each other”, Pia states.

Designers are not free to decide what the areas will look like. The city issues detailed construction guidelines. The rules stipulate the facade materials and colours, the number of floors and the floor area.

“But we negotiate and can agree on a different, more varied appearance, also in the facades, which we achieved with Jallukka”, Pia Ilonen explains.

Less concrete, more options

Areas built in different periods are different. For example, the facades of buildings built in the late 1990s are often painted concrete. Today, in areas with high quality criteria like Jätkäsaari the facades are cladded. One thing remains unchanged. The flats are almost identikit dwellings for the nuclear family.

“I would like to see the trend gradually moving towards residents having more options. There are different people, stages of life and households”, Pia Ilonen says.

Housing decisions are made by politicians, boards and planners, and it would be nice to see them modifying their line on construction techniques and particular materials. In Finland construction with concrete elements is too dominant.

Pia Ilonen doesn’t think that rules are just a bugbear holding back creativity.

“The good thing about Finnish construction is that it delivers high-quality areas, and guidelines and rules have a part in that. One planner commented that they could dispense with rules if all designers were good.

Ruukki facades in Jätkäsaari




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