Mariankatu 7A4, 00170 Helsinki, Finland
Bringing nature to all
The Nattours project began with the goal of making the local natural attractions in Helsinki, Finland more accessible, not only from a practical standpoint, but a humanistic one too. The result was a series of accessible nature trail boardwalks throughout several islands in the city. Despite the rich biodiversity and scenic wilderness in the area, the pre-existing trail structures were not able to support and drive enough interest into their use and these new trails sought to change that.
As a joint effort between the cities of Helsinki and Tallinn, the Nattours project involved Studio Puisto, in collaboration with Nomaji Oy, to design the new accessible nature trail boardwalks initially for Lammassaari island with later phases in Vanhankaupunginlahti and Harakka island, all of which are located in Helsinki.
For the island of Lammassaari, the preexisting duckboards and path structures leading into the island were redone with a modular design that consists of four different components. This construction method allowed for the preexisting base structures and soft bends to be sustainably reused along the approximately one-kilometer long boardwalk route without waste. At the same time, two new birdwatching platforms were built along the path with an additional platform next to the current bird observation tower on the island.
On the other hand, for the island of Harrakka, the focus was instead on developing new ways to coherently mark the nature trails as well as designing uniform railing systems for them. A preexisting concrete bunker in the area was also transformed into a birdwatching tower, with the wooden structures making up the trail leaning on and twisting around the bunker to create a sheltered observation place.
Design for everyone
One of the most fundamental aspects to the Nattours project was that the entire boardwalk needed to be thoughtfully designed for everyone to equally enjoy, meaning that it was essential for it to be adequately accessible. To best prioritize accessibility, the path follows gently sloping curves along the way while the ends of the observation platforms are fully glazed to allow both children and wheelchair users alike the possibility look out into the vast nature without obstruction. In addition, the ends of these observation platforms are also organically enlarged to support teaching purposes as well as to facilitate a more social, comfortable birdwatching experience. These sorts of details, although subtle in practice, help make the paths more accessible for all without taking away from the overall design aesthetic.
Given the site’s propensity to periodically flood, the Nattours boardwalk supports this natural occurrence rather than interferes with it. In its modular construction, the structure has a sequence of vertical wooden poles along its edges where the path is attached to on the sides as opposed to anchoring the path entirely into the ground. Thus, when the island of Lammassaari floods, the top substructure layer of the boardwalk not only floats upwards with the water, but also remains in place due to the placement of these wooden poles. By allowing all natural events, even those conventionally seen as negative, to have an influence and effect on the architecture, it fully embraces the nature around it – a solution we feel is fitting for a nature trail. Altogether, the design approach for Nattours is one that we hope will better foster an engagement with the nature around us in the generations to come.
The building is approached from the south through a dense spruce forest, as the lake landscape slowly opens to the right on the east side. The spruce forest forms a natural and characteristic back wall for the construction site. It acts as a strong visual barrier along the western boundary of the plot, but also softens the place’s otherwise open sound landscape and adds a gentle, dark tone to it. At the beginning of the design, the plot was almost treeless and only one maple tree had to be removed to make room for the building. The rhythmic line of birches by the shore is an essential feature for the landscape opening from the interior of the house, and it also provides privacy when viewing the building from the lake. The steep stone embankment of the shore is repeated with the paving stones of the lower part of the house. The exact location of the building was largely determined by the views. The more north you move on the plot, the more the lake landscape opens, on the other hand the shortest distance to the shore was precisely determined. The old sauna by the shore had to be moved slightly in order to get the best view. Views have been sparingly opened towards the closest neighbor, located northwest, and towards the under-grown tree layer facing north, and the house is more enclosed in that direction. Instead of covering the large glass surfaces with interior curtains, a sun-blind was integrated into the outer surface of the wall structure, which does not allow heat radiation to enter, but allows views to the landscape to be enjoyed from inside the house.
The building consists of three interlocking square masses. The locations of the spaces in different masses are strictly distributed according to the functions; the main mass contains the living, sleeping and dining areas, and the smaller ones have sauna and utility facilities, garage and technical facilities. The core of the main mass and the side masses are within the same coordinate system, which clarifies the connections between the spaces and calms the spatial experience. The basic idea behind the main mass is the core of the open square space, where all the fixtures are integrated and much of the functionality is located. The core has been shifted from the coordinate system of the main mass so that the use of the spaces between it and the outer walls could be optimized. The hallway, sleeping areas, entertainment corner and study are located in caverns created within this spatial distribution. Inside the core is a utility room, toilets and a walk-in closet. There is no traditional division into rooms, but spaces can be separated from one another by sliding doors if desired. The nature of the spaces varies greatly due to large glass surfaces and powerful openings to the landscape. The landscape itself is the most important element of the interior, which is alive and constantly changing according to the time of day and the seasons. On the lake side, the floor height of the building is clearly higher than the surrounding terrain to give the impression of floating above the lake. Similarly, the atmosphere of the spruce forest can be sensed in the living area, located in the western corner of the house, which has been raised to the height of the forest brush. This side is rooted in the ground, and less natural light seeps into the space so the experience is closer to that of the forest atmosphere.
Design at its various stages throughout the project has been executed in close collaboration with the client. Experiences, atmosphere, materiality, nature of light and other starting points of design were thought through and tuned well in advance of the actual design of the space. The design and construction schedule were extraordinarily long, which has resulted in a house that both designer and client are very happy with – a relief after living with the hectic atmosphere of modern construction. To quote the client, “each of the three previous personal construction projects I have undertaken felt purely physical. Not only construction, but also the end result. This is the first building where it feels like something spiritual is involved.”
The exterior of the building is unambiguously distributed in terms of materials. The doors and windows are 2.3 meters high. Everything in this height all around the building is either glass or wood that has been oil painted black. All above and below this 2.3-meter-high zone is Rheinzink pre-patinated sheet zinc. The terraces and the stairs leading to the shore are made of larch. The interior material palette is also clear: the core, with all its surfaces and fixtures, is oiled walnut. Outside the core, the walls and ceilings, as well as the vertical structures, are black oil stained pine. The floor is made of black oil waxed oak parquet. The sauna and washrooms form a contrast to the dark main mass with paraffin-oiled alder on all surfaces. The shower has a ceramic tile that matches the wood.
The special atmosphere of the spaces is largely due to the use of natural light and the different gloss levels of naturally treated wood surfaces. The design of the building’s spaces is not afraid of darkness but has turned it into a strength. The building has places with a huge amount of light and places where you can curl up into the shadows. Always according to the situation and mood. The principle of artificial lighting has been to illuminate only where necessary, bringing light to where you need it most and creating a safe and cozy atmosphere. The light is centered on the walnut core, which glows as a warm element when viewed from the outside. Outside, mainly the walkways are illuminated, but also a few trees as focal points in order to make it easier to see outside when it is dark.
Special attention has been paid to detail in the design and particularly to the fact that a well-designed and executed minimalist detail does not scream with its existence but remains discreetly in the background. This calms and clarifies the site, creating the feeling that everything is comfortably under control and in place. The large number of details and e.g. molding-free construction has demanded extreme precision from the workers and thanks to their professional skills, the end result presents extraordinary harmony.
The building warms up with geothermal heat. It features underfloor heating and electrically heated windows. The garage and the wet rooms are built on a load-bearing slab, otherwise the building has a wooden frame. The wooden frame walls, floors and ceilings have wood fiber insulation, plastic has not been used in the structures.
The Arctic TreeHouse Hotel project started with a concept design made in close cooperation with the client. The inspiration for the accommodation concept — set on a steep natural slope — came from Nordic nature and culture as well as the magical world of SantaPark. A vision started to form: small individual accommodation buildings set in nature, their spirit highlighting characteristics of the area and creating an optimal setting for experiencing both nature and arctic mysticism.
The Arctic Tree Hotel accommodation units, shingle covered pine cone cows, grow in the nature and blend in it, rising on their black stick legs among the rocks and trees. They wander downhill, peering curiously at the landscape and northern lights.
32 accommodation units have been placed in the nature in pairs and there are two different types. On top of the road, you’ll climb the stairs in-between the two buildings to get to the door. Under the road, each pair of buildings can be combined into one bigger unit, and these are entered directly from the street. One of the combinable halves will always have a mini-kitchen, the other accommodation units are equipped with a small fridge. The building will always be entered from uphill to the entrance hall, from which you’ll be able to enter the bathroom. The hall has a large storage area, and on top of it is a sheltered nest-like nook fit for one person to sleep in. From the darker hall you’ll step right into the light main area, where the amount of light will increase and the landscape will open up in its full glory. The wall facing the landscape is made completely of glass and every accommodation unit has been carefully positioned in a way that allows for the most unobstructed view of the scenery possible.
The buildings, structured of and covered in wood, are carefully planned warm nests. Contrast between wild nature and a safe, nest-like space has been a guiding element of the whole design. The decor has surprising and deliberate details that tie into in the area and its experiential concept. The soft, warm materials used in the interior design highlight the nest-like atmosphere. The ecological footprint of the materials and technical solutions used had an important impact at every step of the planning and building process. The green roof helps in managing urban runoff and brings the building’s footprint’s worth of vegetation back to the construction site. The wood on the interior surfaces creates a comfortable environment, healthy indoor air and pleasant acoustics.
Light pollution outdoors has been kept to a minimum due to the northern lights and to enable a true wilderness experience. There are just enough lights for safe accessibility and to help you find your own sleeping place. Some beautiful, deliberately chosen trees have been lit to act as reference points. During evenings and nights the buildings glow on the terrain like lanterns, casting interesting shadows and inviting you to step into the warm indoors. During the day, the play between light and shadow on the interior and exterior surfaces enters the buildings into a delicate discussion with the surrounding nature and its materials.
The accommodation units have been built indoors, down to the internal surfaces and fixed furniture and lifted on the pillars straight from the truck. This way, the strain on the fragile arctic nature will be kept to a minimum. Only the connecting to the infrastructure network and the installation of the big window have been done on site. The intricate details have been made possible by the expertise and care of the constructors. Doors blend seamlessly to the wall and the window frames stay completely hidden. A prototype was built before starting the actual building project, enabling the study of the chosen solutions and methods. The project has been exceptionally fast. The planning was started in August 2015, the prototype was ready in December 2015 and all the buildings were standing steady on their feet, fully furnished in November 2016. The client’s clear vision, the builders’ expertise and flexibility and the seamless collaboration between all parties has enabled the tight schedule.
In addition to the Arctic TreeHouse Hotel, the area will be filled with different accommodation units. Their architecture will offer a new, different angle into the arctic nature. A reception and restaurant building and 5 bigger accommodation units have also been erected, complimenting and contributing to the story started by the pine cone cows.
Modern Neighborhood Sauna
When we were asked to design a sauna for Tampere, the international ‘sauna capital of the world,’ we knew that it would be a momentous and special undertaking. Tullin Sauna, or customs sauna as it is translated, is a public sauna that functions as a related extension to Dream Hotel, also designed by Studio Puisto Architects, right across the street.
Situated in the heart of the former industrial red brick neighborhood, Tullin Sauna is a hidden place of refuge interwoven into the active urban fabric of the city center. Its name is attributed to the location’s past as a customs checkpoint for the municipality and aims to comparably act as a central gathering space for residents and visitors alike.
Tullin Sauna builds upon the notion of a korttelisauna, or neighborhood sauna, which refers to the integral role of the sauna in the late nineteenth century. During that time, space was limited in cities, and residential homes were often too modest in size to be able to house personal washrooms. To fulfill the basic human need for hygiene, korttelisaunas were built, quickly turning into communal living rooms where the public could come together not only to bathe, but also to share thoughts and ideas.
As a modern kortelisauna, Tullin Sauna similarly serves as a communal living room for both Dream Hotel and the larger district in the city. Along with the sauna itself, there is a bistro and co-working space that all together harmoniously foster a dynamic environment that relaxes and stimulates meaningful exchange.
A few decades ago, the existing building for Tullin Sauna acted as a warehouse for the nearby railway station. To celebrate its rich history and the industrial architecture that cultivated it, the overall design is anchored on remaining down to earth and honest to its past while adding a hint of modern charm. Similarly, saunas themselves are conventionally seen as pure, honest spaces as well, and Tullin Sauna was to be no exception to this.
One of the most prominent materials used throughout is natural, warm Finnish pine to juxtapose the cooler, rougher concrete textures already in place. The resulting architecture embodies a sense of nostalgia, carrying out a lively, complementary dialogue between the two. Other well-thought-out details, such as re-purposing concrete chamber rings into a shower area through stacking, also reiterate the concept and ideology behind the design process.
There are two traditional wood-burning Finnish saunas, each with contrasting atmospheres. One is darker and earthier, bearing resemblance to a savusauna, or smoke sauna, while the other is lighter and airier comparable to those typically seen at summer cottages. Both log saunas are constructed by local craftsman who all share a personal, deep-rooted connection to saunas and how they work, making sure that the two experiences were also indeed authentic.
When it comes to the overall user experience, the guiding idea was to also bring this honest, ritualistic sauna environment outside the actual sauna itself – both figuratively and literally. One of the log saunas physically cuts into the reception and bistro architecture with a small, tinted window, offering a symbolic peak into what is to come. Furthermore, to warm the interior and close off the space from the otherwise chaotic city center, the exterior windows were treated to be soft and milky in appearance, suggesting that they have been steamed from a sauna as well. The resulting ambiance is a calm, peaceful one that creates a resounding appetite for sauna from the moment one steps inside.
In addition, conventional sauna items, such as the metal saunaämpäri, or sauna bucket, are immediately visible upon entering and given to each visitor prior to entering the sauna. These buckets not only house the essentials for sauna, such as towels, etc., but also assist in defining the individual character and brand of Tullin Sauna. This is continued all the way into the bistro menu, which differentiates itself by only offering local delicacies and ingredients.
Above all, the resounding commitment towards maintaining the integrity of the sauna experience echoes throughout Tullin Sauna, ultimately establishing a reliable, truthful, and welcoming living room that hosts the local community and beyond – a result we feel is perfect for the sauna capital of the world!
Like the Phoenix
This project started with a fire. A centuries old family home in the Netherlands burned down in one night. When your house and possessions disappear, you are left without the things that make up your history and identity. You are left without a home. Though the fire was an undeniably negative experience for the clients, they saw it as an opportunity to finally have all the things the old house didn’t. They would get to start from scratch, and make the house of their dreams. It was our job to give focus on opportunities and all that positive energy, and in doing so make a new container for life.
All that was left was the location and a few retaining walls. The clients decided against a replica of the original farmstead. Instead, they aspired for a contemporary, square-tube house where all the functions would be organized along a linear sequence. The tube developed into a knot, which engages better with the surrounding landscape by extending in every cardinal direction.
For the interior the goal was a diverse but clear layout. The knot responds to this by separating the house into three distinct wings that come together in the heart of the house: the double-height dining room. The wings offer privacy and seclusion, but company is never far away.
From the open living space the four main windows interact specifically with the landscape along each of the cardinal points. To the north a high window brings in the northern light. To the east a folded window embraces the enclosed garden. Towards the south a tube like window frames the view. To the west a huge window gives a panorama of the fields and the evening sun.
Local building regulations required the house to fit into the environment. By default that meant that the structure should be similar to the historical white plastered architecture of the neighboring houses. We opted instead to blend the house with the natural environment surrounding it. The dark, stained, vertical boards of larch make the building disappear against a backdrop of trees. The new house embraces the landscape and makes interaction with the surroundings its most important asset -both outdoors and inside.
A new house had to be constructed as quickly as possible. To speed up the construction process the house was designed in close cooperation with the main contractor. The wooden wall elements were CNC cut and prefabricated in Germany. From there they were transported to the Netherlands and erected in less than a week. All together the building process took eight months until the final moment when the clients could move in.
The short construction time meant costs were considerably lower than with traditional building methods. This financial gain was reinvested in ambitious energy efficiency as well as a higher level of finishing and materials.
The house is designed to conserve as much energy as possible and has high levels of insulation combined with a heat recovery system. Solar thermal collectors and a heat accumulating wood stove serve as additional energy sources. Only during the coldest winter days will the house need an external heat source.
This project was about breaking new ground, healing wounds, making a fresh start, collaboration, cooperation, listening, site-specific sensitivity, efficiency, cost effective design – in short, what we think architecture is about.
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