Nordicum - Real Estate Annual Finland 2014 - Page 31

Be True to Your School Aalto University is building a true heart for its historic main campus Aalto University – the new academic entity hailed as “the innovation university” – is looking to build a true main campus. Fittingly, the existing campus in Otaniemi, Espoo, was designed by the man who gave his name to the university – one Alvar Aalto, the legendary architect/designer. But having Aalto design the campus turned out to be a “kiss of death”, so to speak, for future development: no one dared to meddle with this holy ground. After years of preparation, however, there are plans to build a true core to the campus area – while making sure that Aalto’s original work is not compromised in any way. A alto University Properties Ltd. put together a high-profile architectural competition to find a vision that would complement that of Aalto – and international entries came pouring in like rain. As many as 189 entries entered the competition which is an extremely high number given the tight guidelines of the contest, says Kari Kontturi, Managing Director of Aalto University Properties. “From a cultural historic perspective, this competition featured its share of challenges,” he says, adding that a concept was needed here that the entire community could be proud of and fully commit to its realisation. Setting the Standard Finally in November, a winner was declared for the competition: Väre, designed by the Finnish firm Verstas Architects and its team of architects, Väinö Nikkilä, Jussi Palva, Riina Palva and Ilkka Salminen, walked away with the first prize. According to the jury, this scheme most successfully “solved the challenges and conflicting demands of the competition”. All along, the university was looking for a unique solution and a usable learning environment for the new building and its immediate surroundings. The quality of the architecture as well as cost efficiency and ecological sustainability were among the assessment criteria. The jury described Väre as a strong and convincing entry. Dean Helena Hyvönen, chairperson of the competition jury, remarked that the jury expects this winning entry to set a “new standard” for future university learning environments, not only in Finland, but also within the international arena. Kari Kontturi seconds the motion: “The entire process, and especially the level of interaction therein, has been world-class,” he believes, emphasising that this project has been all about “true dialogue”. Driven by Metro Open Innovation House in Otaniemi. Kari Kontturi, Managing Director of Aalto University Properties. And, of course, the expectations are only heightened by the introduction of metro into the campus in late 2015; the metro traffic is likely to energise various forms of development in the area. But when can we expect to see the ul- Lobby of Otakaari 1 (formerly main building of The Helsinki University of Technology) in Otaniemi. timate “end product” of the process? Kontturi says that the new main building could open its doors by the end of 2016, if everything runs smoothly. He admits that there are some obstacles in the way, most of them linking with zone plan alterations. “Nevertheless, in the end we will get something that has the power to bring people together,” he says. The new building and its surroundings are examined as part of the university’s broader campus programme which seeks to strengthen the operational preconditions for research, artistic activity and teaching. Campus Facelift There is also a massive renovation programme underway: the extensive retooling needed in the campuses is expected to swallow € 230 million by the year 2020. “We are looking to add new buildings, but also get rid of some old premises,” Kontturi says. More and more, the focus of the university is turning to new ways of learning: “Various co-working concepts are certainly worth looking into,” Kontturi says, adding that collaboration with especially SMEs is likely to increase in the neighbourhood. Nordicum 29