In recent years Finnish education has ranked very high in international comparisons (see the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, PISA, for more). According to Finnish architects Verstas, this success is due in part to municipalities investing in quality school architecture.
“In 2007, VERSTAS Architects won the open architectural competition for Saunalahti school [in Espoo, Finland’s second largest city] and the building was completed in Autumn 2012.” says Verstas. “The design has been tailored to support the pedagogical ideas of the school in pursuit of better learning results and the school is the outcome of a close collaboration between the architect and the user.”
“In addition to comprehensive school classes from 1 to 9, the building provides spaces for day care centre, preschool and a youth house. The school also houses a public library service point and in the evenings and weekends the workshop classrooms, gymnastics spaces and school yards are used by the locals and several hobby clubs.”
“The openness and the sense of community can also be seen in the architecture”, says Architect Ilkka Salminen. “The heart of the building, the multi-purpose dining hall is the space where all users meet. It opens up to the large school yard like an amphitheatre.”
Massive fair-faced concrete walls and smooth, curving oak veneered ceilings give expressiveness to the space and a large glass wall brings it together with the yard. Outside, the materials palette is complemented by wood, copper and the brick masonry comprising a collage of different brick-laying techniques.
“According to studies experiential learning and doing with ones own hands improve learning results. In the learning process of Saunalahti school, a special emphasis is put on art and physical education. The activity of the workshop spaces is made visible to the street, the school yard and the main lobby through glass walls, making the sense of doing and creating ever-present in the school life.”
Location: Brinkinmäentie 1, Espoo, Finland
Status: Completed in Autumn 2012
Gross floor area: 10500m2, volume: 54900 m3
Client: City of Espoo
Architectural design: Verstas Architects / Väinö Nikkilä, Jussi Palva, Riina Palva, Ilkka Salminen