Aalto University

Client: City of Helsinky
Location: Helsinky, Finland
Date: 2012, competition
Built area: 53.343m2

A campus without cars. What shape would this bicycle and pedestrian space take, especially at the interface with the new metro, real entrance gate to the campus? The driving idea of this project is to find an answer to this question. The main difference between the car traffic and the soft mobility lies in the freedom of the latter in terms of connectivity and direction of flows. One can walk or cycle anywhere on a surface, making the need for parking space or interface unnecessary, and providing an infinity of possible path to choose for the user.

The concept of the project is to organize a three dimensional surface that enables precise connectivity for bikes and pedestrian on several levels, both at a big scale to connect every distant point of the campus to the new metro and restaurant, and at a smaller scale to connect all the programmatic entities on different floors, as well as the surrounding buildings.

The specific climate of Otaniemi, and of Finland in general, asks for a reflection on the winter and summer conditions. The idea is to provide a landscape-like surface that links all the different components of the buildings, and shelters an interior space, underneath, that can have the same role of connectivity during the winter time. This landscape like surface is bound by an exterior wall that is responding
to the complex environment of this specific site in two ways. First it responds in plan to the surrounding buildings by repeating their alignment, in other places it pulls back in order to allow for plaza spaces, like in front of the former main building. Secondly, it responds to the existing buildings in terms of materials and appearance, through the use of bricks, like most of the buildings on the site. With its simple yet rich layout of brick patterns creating a very calm background towards surrounding buildings, contrasting in that with the interior landscape that seeks to create a strong identity at the core of the Aalto University.

The orientation of the landscape façade allows for maximal daylight exposure in the studio spaces and the study spaces devoted to the different faculties of the school, whereas the vertical boundary facade serves the more generic programs such as classrooms, lecture rooms, offices, and at the ground floor for public programs pertaining to all the school, such as commercial space, metro station, and restaurant.

All the programs are organized around and connected to the winter and summer circulation, respectively the interior circulation at the ground floor and the central landscape. The most spatially constrained programs such as theatres, generic classrooms and lecture halls are located in the lower floors, reserving the upper floors for more spatially flexible and sun seeking programs such as the studio spaces of the different faculties of the schools, libraries and workshop spaces. Each programmatic group has one or several entrances directly on the landscape surface, as well as an easy connection to the inner circulation. The central landscape is not only designed to ensure a good connectivity for bikes and pedestrian, to create an attractive core and an iconic reference space, it also seeks to be efficient in terms of sustainable development. This hilly landscape provides the project with an efficient water collector, and with extensive green areas, also functioning as natural isolation and evaporation cooling for the building. The terraces on the steepest parts of the landscape with setback glass facade are an efficient sun shading system in summer, and still allow for good solar gains in winter when the sun is lower. The aim of the project is to use ecologically sustainable energy sources such as heat pumps, and water retreatment systems like phytoepuration, as well as using local materials such as bricks and wood, to reach a sound ecological footprint.

using allyou.net