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The new family of arts buildings manifests the new birth of Otaniemi. It boasts pioneering student and user-oriented learning and research culture and becomes a bold symbol of the fresh university. The divided small-scale fragmentation of the new buildings makes possible mixing departmental spaces: especially collaborative courses and projects can be placed on buildings basically belonging to another department. The pavilion-like new buildings create a vibrating micro city with active indoor and outdoor spaces. Between the new buildings there are intimate outdoor public spaces. Ground floors of the buildings have many accesses and openings. Running through the new buildings there is another public sphere – interconnected indoor galleries. These create together the welcoming interdisciplinary sphere. The new central square between the metro station and the university library becomes a melting pot for urban culture with impermanent uses and transient happenings. The students are encouraged to program and create pop-up action in this space. Alvar Aalto’s landscape concept – buildings adjusted on hills, slow traffic in valleys, placing man-made elements in natural landscape – gets new interpretation: an organic structure and landscape repeating the same principle in smaller scale, but with a contemporary soft twist. The arts cluster is a micro archipelago not only in organization, but it also includes sustainable landscape construction: garden roofs, terraces and green walls. The updated landscape is more interactive than the previous – allowing pop-up gardens and outdoor activity fields for multiple user groups. The new landscape also connects different parts of the campus area. The arts cluster becomes a new centre for the whole Otaniemi community, with its open access restaurants and department lobbies. One can walk through all the departments of arts and get a thoroughful but fast impression on what’s going on. The typical department premises – loft-like open learning spaces – turn to flexible uses and changes: there are no non-programmable corridors. Each building has “third” places for encountering and random human collisions, enhancing cross-disciplinary interaction: galleries, cafés, canteens, kitchens and relaxation areas. These are open to everyone. The gallery spaces running through buildings are theatrical stages for exhibitions and happenings, surpassing everyday life. Surrounding the central galleries there are important fields for students’ changing individual and group work places. Entrance displays welcome visitors to participate in the program of the day and to see the exhibitions.


Aalto university

Role & scope

Urban design & building design competition entry



Team & Collaborators

helsinkizurich + Ramboll Ltd [landscape architecture] + Sotamaa design

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