Helsinki’s temporary event space Pikku-Finlandia is a student project come to life
Pikku-Finlandia, a sustainable, temporary wooden event space, has opened to the public in Helsinki – and it is the result of the ambitious thesis work of two students, Jaakko Torvinen and Elli Wendelin, featured in Wallpaper’s 2022 Graduate Directory
Pikku-Finlandia (‘Little Finlandia’) is located on Töölönlahti Bay in the heart of Helsinki’s Töölönlahti Park. Laid out on the south coast, the park is a cultural oasis that houses the Finnish capital’s winter garden and main opera house. Here, the new building is intended to act as a temporary replacement for Finnish modernist master Alvar Aalto’s famous Finlandia Hall, which is being renovated. Demountable and constructed of wood, including whole tree trunks on full display, it is an impressive piece of sustainable architecture; But the most amazing thing is that Pikku-Finlandia was born as a brave student work.
In 2019, architecture students Jaakko Torvinen and Elli Wendelin submitted a student competition entry at Aalto University’s School of Arts, Design and Architecture for a transportable wooden building to serve as an event and restaurant space and the Finlandia Hall temporarily during restoration should replace . Their project was chosen as the winner and will now be realized as Pikku-Finlandia. The building follows a rectangular, modular grid of unfinished pine, the knots of which are still visible. The long side of the building features a succession of pine pillars that give the feeling of being at the ‘edge of the forest’. As Europe’s most forested country, Finland is covered by mostly conifer species, including the Scots pine, which cover about 75 percent of its area (nearly 20 million hectares).
The 2,300 m² multi-purpose building has a capacity of 200 to 400 people and consists of a floor with a café, four halls and a cabinet. The design is flexible and modular, the halls can be connected to form larger areas for events and catering as required. One of the four halls, Kelo Hall, opens onto a bright lobby whose long glass facade highlights the view of the landscape of Töölönlahti Bay from inside.
Wendelin and Torvinen were working on their thesis entitled “From Finlandia Forest to Pikku-Finlandia – Design for a Transportable Wooden Building”. Wendelin focused on the carbon footprint of the building as a transportable structure and the life cycle of the pine wood. Torvinen explored efficient and accessible ways to dismantle the structure in the future through reverse building design principles. The team, along with their professor Pekka Heikkinen, hand-picked 95 pine logs from the southern boreal forest in Loviisa and used a pressure washer to strip the bark, preserving the pine’s organic shape and surface.
Originally designed by Torvinen, the design concept was further developed together with fellow students Wendelin, Havu Järvelä and Stine Pedersen. Once the concept for implementation was selected, members of the team continued to work on the design in collaboration with Helsinki-based architecture firm Arkkitehdit NRT Oy and Heikkinen.
Pikku-Finlandia can and will be moved to a new location once the Finlandia Hall renovation work is completed by 2025. The striking but relatively humble piece of eco-friendly architecture is set to be dismantled, rebuilt, repurposed and eventually recycled. As a multi-purpose space, it can be used as an educational facility, for example, to visit other parts of Helsinki or Finland over the next 30 years, which is its estimated lifespan. §