The renovation of the Aalto University Harald Herlin Learning Centre in Otaniemi, designed by NRT Architects in collaboration with JKMM Architects (interiors), has been selected as the winner of the 2017 Finlandia Prize for Architecture. Completed in 2016, the project is the first renovation to be awarded the prize. The original building was completed in 1970 to fit into the Alvar Aalto-designed Otaniemi campus plan.
Now in its fourth year, the prize was established to “increase public awareness of high quality Finnish architecture and [to highlight] its benefits for our well-being.” Last year, APRT Architects’ Rovaniemi Sports Arena, Railo took home top honors.
Each year, the winning project is chosen by an honorable, non-architect guest judge from a shortlist of four projects selected by a jury of architects. This year, Reijo Karhinen, President and CEO of the OP Financial Group was given the distinction of choosing the winner.
“The renovation of the learning centre has succeeded in upgrading and modernising the building to meet today’s needs by boldly introducing novel ideas while challenging and yet respecting the original design of the building,” commented Karhinen in his official statement.
“The view over the ground floor is a powerful experience – stunning colours, the tangible air of creativity and new learning as well as innovative design solutions raise the heartbeat with excitement... The architects have shown the courage to genuinely question Aalto’s thought in a most appropriate manner, by reconciling architectural beauty and diverse functional demands.”
The prize was awarded to architects Teemu Tuomi and Tuomo Remes of NRT at an awards ceremony at Valkoinen Sali in Helsinki. Together they worked with Eeva-Liisa Elo-Lehtinen (NRT Architects), who joined the team at the project planning stage and Päivi Meuronen of JKMM Architects (interiors).
“The unique atmosphere of the main spaces in the building owes much to Alvar Aalto’s clever use of natural light. The calm and beautiful reading rooms have found their place in the new learning centre. Changes in these protected spaces were mainly to do with modernising the building services, improving accessibility and developing the furnishings and service concept,” explains Tuomi.
“Introducing new types of learning into the building while respecting Aalto’s architecture was achieved by removing the book depository function altogether. One of the low depository floors was completely dismantled and a large opening was added to another to let in light. This resulted in a room that would have had no use in a 1970s library. The multi-purpose space can be defined and redefined according to future needs. It currently serves as a space for rehearsals, software learning, 3D printing, virtual games, events and also has a café.”
Learn more about the 2017 award, here.