8 storey Cross-Laminated Timber apartments win Finlandia Prize for Architecture

They have one very strange architectural competition in the Finlandia Prize for Architecture. A short list of candidates, either buildings done in Finland by Finnish or foreign architects, or buildings done elsewhere by Finnish architects, is selected by a jury. Then the winner is selected by a single non-professional juror; this year it is Finnish Composer Kaija Saariaho. Her choice of winner is built of one of our favorite materials, Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT), the Puukuokka high-rise residential building in Jyväskylä, designed by OOPEAA Office for Peripheral Architecture.

Corridors in building© OOPEAA via Finlandia Prize

The architects explain how it was built:

The structures consist of prefabricated modular cubical elements utilizing Stora´s Enso CLT (cross laminated timber) Urban MultyStory concept.... The use of modular prefabricated elements ensures a uniform high standard of quality and minimizes delays and other weather-related problems during the construction process. The modular cubical elements made of cross laminated timber are dry, adaptable, lightweight and ready-to install. The CLT frame serves both as a load-bearing and stiffening element, as well as providing a vapor barrier and partial heat insulation.

Unit interior© OOPEAA

Juror Kaija Saariaho explains why she liked it:

Of all the finalists, the greatest impression was made by Puukuokka, a timber-framed high-rise building complex on the human scale aiming for a new type of ecological construction. Thanks to the extensive use of wood, the acoustics were pleasant and cosy even in the staircase. It was also airy and spacious because of its large size. The views of one of the residents I visited on the superiority of a wood-clad dwelling – especially in terms of acoustics and comfort – convinced me. I could sense the welcoming atmosphere when entering the home. The apartments are average in size with floor areas ranging from 53 to 76 square metres. All are equipped with either a recessed or extended balcony, an ideal solution considering the Finnish climate.

Even in Finland, which is covered in wood, there were limitations on its use because of fire regulations, and even there the concrete industry fought the use of wood. Saariaho notes:

During my visit, I began to gain an insight into the fire safety regulations advocated by the concrete industry that have traditionally imposed stringent restrictions on the use of wood in construction in Finland. As a result, it used to be impossible to build this type of multistory buildings in the country. It is just another example of how financial interests may impede progress in finding ecological solutions – increased living comfort and the emergence of a new kind of construction as in this case!

Interior starwell© OOPEAA

I must admit that I have been trying to figure how their fireproofing works, the corridors and stairwells all appear to be open from floor to floor. However it appears to all be sprinklered. And it is very lovely to look at.

Tags: Awards | Finland | Wood Construction


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