Finland – Future Timber projects

During the past fifteen years Finland's timber building culture seems to have ebbed and flowed. At present however there seems to be some momentum with a significant number of projects Attention is focused on Lahdalma-Mahlamaki's Haltia Nature Centre, Finland's first CLT public building, although there are several ambitious projects which are either under construction or are likely to come on stream over the next months: Here's a run-down.

Housing Showcases

Helsinki's first timber High Rise

Won by the up-and-coming Anttinen Oiva Architects with their Stories entry in a limited invited competition in autumn 2012 the high rise project is a part of a larger Wood City quarter in Jätkäsaari. Helsinki’s large one time container port and industrial area is at the heart of the city’s redevelopment strategy. Wood City’s first phase is to begin in 2014, with the eight storey mixed use high rise, including hotel, residential and office areas, and is to be followed by further commercial and residential buildings. A vehicle for Stora Enso, the Helsinki based paper and pulp multinational, whose Building and Living division includes a focus on sawn softwood, particularly a growing CLT related product range. These are already being used in British and other European building projects although Wood City looks set to test and develop these products for the first time within their own back yard, the country’s capital.


Low2No is another big Jatkasarri mixed development with Stora-Ensa CLT again as the core structural material. Launched in 2009 by Sitra (The Finnish Innovation Fund) as one of a suite of strategic initiatives focused on the designing the future Helsinki, the competition was won by Berlin based SauerbrauchHutton, international engineers Arups and Experientia, a participatory design consultancy.

The first of the buildings of the Low2No city block will be the six storey new Sitra HQ, followed by residential, offices and commercial buildings for the Low2NO’s first phase on the 100 hectare site. The Sitra HQ is intended, according to publicity, to "provide a replicable example of how industrialised all timber construction can serve sustainable architecture on a larger scale."

Constructed from prefab highly insulated timber sandwich elements, the timber structure will be visible within the office space of the head-quarters, which is seen as replicable in the light of changes to Finnish regulations on timber building. Its energy use is calculated at 45kWh/m2/yr, half what the legally required amount for Finnish heating and cooling.

Due to be completed by 2014, there’s little on-line to suggest it’s going to be ready on time. Although there is considerable material covering early phases of the design on-line, this fades away closer to the present-day, suggesting the project may be suffering from schedule creep.


Another ambitious competition-based timber showcase is E2, (the two E’s stand for ecology and economy), a timber housing project, this time in the South Eastern city of Kouvala one of the historic pulp and paper milling cities, which in the last decade has been eclipsed by international competition.

Organised by the Nordic Wooden Cities network the E2 competition was won in 2011 by a group, with Denmark’s BIG heading up a joint Finnish-Danish team of Pirmin Jung Engineers, Anttinen Oiva Architects and Vahanen

Their winning entry developed a prefabricated modular housing system, titled PUU BO, designed as an adaptive system and able to be constructed at different scales. Overlooking Kouvala’s river Kymi the original design featured eight storey down to single storey structure.

Other Projects

Serlachius museum, Mänttä

Mänttä’s Serlachius art museum is the site for an unusual and experimental precedent: a southern European practice coming to Finland to build in timber.

Spain’s MX_SI Architectural Studio won a Euro-wide open competition to design a new extension to the Serlachius museum, currently held within a manor-house on the edge of Lake Melasjärvi. The low lying design includes additional exhibition rooms, a lobby area, conference room and restaurant and descends in stages down to the lake., using glulam frame and glass system. The new museum is currently planned to open midsummer 2014.

Rovaniemi Sports Arena

The Northern Finnish city of Rovaniemi is host to the first major sports canopy made out of timber since K2’s Oylympics canopy from 2005. Designed by APRT alongside providing grandstand seating the canopy houses service facilities, dressing rooms and media and office spaces. For further housing blocks stand alongside the sports centre, separated by a public pedestrian street space.

The zigzagging canopy is made up of 33 panels, held up by 34 timber columns, and much is made of its sculptural quality.

Tornedalen Arts Centre

Tornedalen Arts Centre is just over on the Swedish side of border of the Bothnian Gulf’s river Torne, which divides the two countries in the

High Nordic Region. Conceived as a culture and arts centre by its founder, Gunhild Stensmyr (pdf of project description here) a limited competition was won through invited competition by Lassila-Hervilammi Architects in the autumn of 2012.

LassilaHirvilammi’s design aims to utilise wood in a variety of ways. There will be a primarily grey silver larch pitch roofed that echoes their interest in traditional vernacular forms, if abstracted into modern form. A glass window facade, interwoven
with spruce fir will line the building, and the aim is to draw in the local community with summer workshops that will introduce and nurture traditional woodworking skills on site to those interested, particularly the up and coming generation, and also underline the benefits of co-operative and communal participatory work. The build is likely to take place over the summer of 2015.