aalto university school of arts design architecture

Open international competition 2012

Architecture Damir Masek www.damirmasek.net
Structural engineer Stefan Baenziger www.schnetzerpuskas.com
Consultant Oliver Hildenbrand www.planixteam.ch

plow  Campus 2015
Natural Square Project

Cultivation concept:

Periodic new cultivation of the fields, harvests and fresh seeding which flourishes fruitfully on the renewed soil, inner and outer nurturing of the soil guide Aalto University to its commanding international position.
Cultivation, attention to the land, to the inner structure, to social interaction between students and staff, to equality, to the individual and the group, to freedom, responsibility, goals, openness, support in programmes, the natural surroundings, the existing context, international networking creates the fertile soil for it; fruitfulness.
The five departments – Architecture & Landscape, Design, Arts, Media and Media Lume – sprout from five different seed types.
They express themselves individually and are part of Aalto University, of the whole.


On each floor, two subjects are combined, whose interaction can be seen on the facades of each department; cultivation
Public usage, student rooms and flexible modular studios on the ground floor; classrooms and faculty and administrative workspaces on the upper floors.
The vertical opening connects all of the programmes.

Local integration:

The original landscape of Otaniemi is interpreted anew and invigorated. The individual forest areas, currently isolated, are connected and create, together with the project, a forest clearing, the Nature Piazza.
The principle, proposed by Alvar Aalto in 1949 and put into practice in 1955, of constructing university buildings adjacent to the extensive green spaces, shaped by the former cultural landscape, is further developed with the former cultural landscape, running from northwest to southeast, as the principal direction.
Its presence is palpable on site. Along with the connection between the Architecture & Landscape department, metro station, media school and the "red carpet" to Aalto University, the former main building, Otakaari 1, is the main opening and connection axis for pedestrians and cyclists between the existing local university departments.


The internal organisation, the program, the functions, the processes are based on the principle of social interaction between students and staff of all the different departments, and between nature and culture.

Circular principle:

The learning centre functions as a mall into which restaurants are incorporated as resting places. Strolling along the Nature Piazza, one encounters the different focal areas of the departments; knowledge and relaxation in a natural environment.
A tour through all the departments lets the visitor take in the "colour" of the departments.
The "combinations" on each floor change the perspectives of each location according to the principle of the "cultivation" concept, inward to the Nature Piazza or outwards to the existing university structures.
The restaurant area is located in the middle of the Piazza, is oriented to both sides and two-storied. Four different types of restaurants present their offers. The ground floor intensifies the meals in the presence of the two views, while the lower-lying view enables intimate, windless and contemplative consumption of food, oriented towards the sky.
The covered terrace, passageway and Finnish pines in the patio restaurants offer protection from sun and inclement weather.
Arriving passengers at the roofed-over metro station can get their bearings, exchange words, go on their ways and encounter local students and staff.


This building forms the culmination of the VTT area. It evolves into the height and its volume decreases in order to absorb the height of the context and let an optimal amount of light into the neighbouring buildings.

Nature, material, structure:
The use of natural materials from the area – the forest – results in environmentally friendly buildings which are flexible in terms of moisture. The pre-fabrication of the wooden structure is cost-effective.
The logic which is intrinsic to the concept involves two materials which appear on roofs and facades in alternation: green areas and Finnish pine. This creates accessible wooden terraces and roofs and leafy, temperature-regulating (even for the buildings themselves) green areas which can be thinned out.

Nature is the foundation and the horizon; it takes priority over all else.


The basic concept of the project is also reflected in its ecological and economic goals.

The volume configuration separates the different usages into distinct units with spatial identities and individual designs. At the same time, however, the annex and the library are arranged or connected with each other in such a way that intermingling, social contact and mutual use are encouraged.
Optimal daylight and excellent interior air and thermal protection ensure users' well-being and health. This situation is achieved using innovative room layout, natural materials together with practical ventilation technology and a highly heat-insulated, sealed and partially green building envelope.
The selected building method using pre-built units makes it possible to efficiently use the compact volumes. The optimised structural concept reduces the material consumption, maximises the openings and the configuration of the supports makes use highly flexible. When selecting materials, the whole life costs are always factored in.


The new buildings blend into the landscape optically and technically. The supporting structure and the building envelope are made primarily of Finnish spruce and are partially covered with green areas. The positive effect of this concept can be noticed from production to useful life to demolition with regards to availability, environmental pollution, harmful substances and indoor climate. The operational energy requirements are covered by renewable energy sources such as solar and geothermal energy.

Nature is the roof of our world