“The finished building effectively communicates our original architectural theme of the forest and nature.” Avanto Architects’ Anu Puustinen and Ville Hara designed a facade for the new Finnish Design Shop logistics center, which differs in many ways from most warehouse buildings.
THE FACADE of Finnish Design Shop’s new logistics center can well be described as a work of architecture based on surprises and stark contrasts.
The part of the facade facing Turku Ring Road is entirely black, windowless and completely unadorned except for the logo shining in the upper corner. The other side, where the entrance is located, is something very different: it opens onto a forest landscape, and with its large glazed surfaces and impressive wooden protrusions one could be forgiven for mistaking the building as a contemporary urban library, museum or concert hall. It is only when you see the long line of loading bays that you know you’re at a logistics building.
The facade was designed by Anu Puustinen and Ville Hara of Avanto Architects, whose previous works include the award-winning sauna complex Löyly in Helsinki. In an interview with Design Stories, the architects share their thoughts on the logistics center project and its outcome.
What were the initial ideas behind the design of the logistics center facade?
Anu: “Finnish Design Shop CEO Teemu Kiiski gave us a short presentation about the company and provided reference images for us to use. Close collaboration between architects and building users is extremely important, and it’s always great to be able to work with a client that has a clear vision of the design they want.
All too often in Finland, the bar is set too low, resulting in mediocre architecture. Those kinds of buildings are not valued, they are not maintained, and they don’t have a long life. This is not sustainable construction. In this project, by contrast, the customer wanted only the best and took an interest in even the smallest details. It is precisely this attention to detail that led to the final quality.”
How did this project differ from your previous architectural projects?
Ville: “There’s a great amount of solid surface when the possibilities to include windows are limited. The challenge this presents is how to achieve an active connection with the building’s surroundings. In this case, the surroundings were very large-scale, with Turku Ring Road to the south and a concrete batching plant to the west. For that reason, we centered all the windows on the direction from which people arrived at the building.
The showroom opens to the northeast, and this direction allowed for large glass surfaces, as the premises would not be exposed to so much sunlight that it would become uncomfortably hot inside. The challenge was to bridge the gap between the imposing scale of the building and the people occupying it. The three-dimensional relief surface of the facade creates this intermediate scale we were looking for, and brings life to the large solid surfaces.”
“The challenge was to bridge the gap between the imposing scale of the building and the people occupying it.”
What materials did you use for the facade, and did sustainability play a role in the choices?
Anu: “Many options were explored in the course of the design development, including the possibility of a wood facade. In the end, however, we decided on concrete, as it is long-lasting and requires little maintenance during its life cycle. We have a good understanding of sustainability issues, as responsibility in general is central to all our operations. An interesting thing about the whole question about sustainability is that the more one explores it the more complex things become. There are no easy and unambiguous solutions.
Although wood does bind a lot of carbon, wooden facades have a shorter useful life than concrete. In addition, carbon footprint calculations must take into account the frequency of maintenance that the facade will require, and its replacement with a completely new facade at the end of its life cycle. The species of wood used also has an impact on the decision-making. Increased logging can be a threat to old-growth forests.”
What difficulties did you encounter along the way?
Ville: “The biggest challenge was the really tight schedule. The design and construction were completed in just over a year, whereas similar projects would normally have twice as much time. Thankfully, the construction company was highly professional and things went well. Some adjustments had to be made to the designs – for example, the doors and windows had to be changed to ones for which warranties could be obtained. The surface treatments were also demanding, as we did not want to use ready-made color-coded options. Instead, we tinted the translucent surfaces ourselves, which required many models.”
What do you think of the end result – what are you particularly pleased with?
Anu: “Overall, the changes that had to be made to the designs were reasonably minor. The finished building effectively communicates our original architectural theme of the forest and nature, which was inspired by the nearby Pomponrahka nature reserve and the massive Pirunpesä erratic boulder. So we’re satisfied with the result.”
Ville: "The relief surface of the facade changes its appearance wonderfully throughout the day, and the large north-facing landscape windows make the interior bright and very pleasant."
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Text: Nora Uotila and Mikko Vaija Images: Anders Portman / Kuvatoimisto Kuvio Oy and Avanto Architects