School and day care centre, Helsinki
School and day care centre
HELSINKI (FI) - JKMM's winning school design is a central public building.
The Kalasatama (Fish Harbour) area near the centre of Helsinki is undergoing big changes. It will soon be developed into a diverse urban and residential area flanking a new underground station of the same name. In 2010, an invited architectural competition was held for a school and day care centre centrally located next to a big park in Kalasatama. The winner was JKMM Architects, whose most recent, very big success was the Finnish Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo. But JKMM also has a track record with buildings for learning and children, including the Leipuri day care centre in Myllypuro, Helsinki, and the Suurpelto Children's House in Espoo.
The new school is conceptually ambitious. Architects Juha Mäki-Jyllilä and Edit Bajsz describe a very empowering seminar organized by the city for the invited working groups. The six chosen teams were encouraged to think about learning and teaching in completely new ways. JKMM's team included an educational expert, Esa Tammi, headmaster of the Haaga primary school. And although the city plan in Kalasatama is relatively rigid as far as the housing blocks are concerned, the city and the school department do show high ambitions regarding this central public building.
The winning proposal, to be built in two phases, is a half-open block curved around a central courtyard. In addition to this outdoor space, there are sporting facilities in neighbouring Kalasatama Park and on the other side of a planned pedestrian bridge connection to the nearby Mustikkamaa recreational area. The big park south of the underground station can be reached via a pedestrian bridge included in the JKMM design, which issues directly from the second level of the school building.
The project is based on a different, more irregular geometry than that of the surrounding development. The materials differ, too: lightweight wooden constructions with sail-like, PVC textile awnings in front of them are used for the courtyard facades, while simple white facades with differently sized square windows face the streets, here and there with coloured glass.
The interior – mostly white, with colour accents – is arranged for maximum flexibility. On the second level there will be an encircling balcony and stairs down to ground level, an arrangement JKMM also used in the Leipuri day care centre. Each classroom group will thus have its own entrance. In the evenings, the sports/gymnastics/workshop facilities located on the second floor can also be used by local adults. These spaces will also be independently accessible from Polariksenkatu Street.
The arts and music spaces for the older pupils are located on the third level. The building begins with the more protected part of the courtyard for the lowest classes and then circles upwards, so that the level of the building corresponds to the children's age.
The weakest aspect of the proposal is that the first part to be built is at the back of the plot. Only after the second phase is completed will the school take its proper place in the cityscape. The jury has also called for some fine-tuning of the design. The architects will have to reconsider both the facade solutions and the possibility of locating the sports hall at street level.
January | 2011 | Finland | Tarja Nurmi