The Finnish based practice ARK-house Architects recently realised the new building for the Seafarer’ Centre close to the main entrance to the Helsinki’s Vuosaari harbour. With its organic shape and the use of mailny natural materials it forms a strong contrast to the crushing hectare-sized steel warehouses, and the artificial landscape of tarmac fields and container seas which dominates the area. As the only public building in the area, its role is to serve as a place of respite; a small multipurpose building for the seamen that arrive at the harbour form afar.
“As a counter-point, a soft organic form language was chosen for the building, as well as a wood construction. The architecture of the building could be described as contextual in the wide sense of the word: the preserved hillock, with its trees and rocks, is an essential part of the architecture of the building. The objective in the design of the building has been to create a unique identity, because in the best case scenario the distant traveller can take home a positive memory of something tantalizingly strange yet hospitable. The completely wooden structure and its compact shape are a homage to the building tradition based on the purposefulness of wooden ships and the aesthetics that spring form it, as well as a comment on the ecological challenges of the present. The premises offer both physical and spiritual nourishment: the spiritual word and composure, coffee, a laundry and computers. Particularly important are the cosy atmosphere and the simultaneous experience of familiarity and newness. The commissioners behind the project are the Finnish Seamen’s Mission and the Finnish Seamen’s Service, both of which have long traditions and an international history of supporting seafarers. The building has been consecrated as a church. The denominational aspect is brought out in a sensitive way, respectful of the religion and cultural background of each visitor.”