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Finlandia Prize for Architecture 2015: the Puukuokka high-rise residential building in Jyväskylä 0

Q&A with the building’s chief designer, the architect Anssi Lassila

In September of this year, the winners of the Finlandia Prize for Architecture were announced. The pre-selection jury described the winning entry - the Puukuokkahigh-rise residential building in Jyväskylä - as follows: “The structures are made of solid timber and wooden CLT panels. The dark building enclosure facing the street protects the yard located higher up, creating an intimate area as if in the lap of the high edifice. In contrast to the dark exterior, the facade facing the yard is made of untreated spruce enlivened by the sets of extended balconies. The dwellings are stacked into three eight-storey-high zones, leaving a towering and airy lobby as high as the building itself in-between. The decision to make the stairwell semi-heated allowed the designers to make it exceptionally large.”

The Finish composer Kaija Saariaho, a member of the panel of judges, explained the reasoning behind her choice with the following words: “Puukuokka appeals to me intuitively and is consistent with my own pursuits and values. A visit to one of the apartments and the superiority of a wood-clad dwelling – especially in terms of acoustics and comfort – convinced me. I could sense the welcoming atmosphere when entering the home. The large windows of the spacious staircase offer a view of a forest landscape in several directions. Puukuokka is the building that I enjoyed most with all my senses.”

The prize was accepted by the building’s chief designer, the architect Anssi Lassila (OOPEAA Office for Peripheral Architecture), who stays true to his personal perceptions and sense of awareness: “For me, senses of place, light and material are elements that often stay with me from one project to the next. I don’t think that architecture needs ‘isms’ or dogmas.” Lassila was also very open in his answers to  the questions posed in the following short interview.

Located in the Kuokkala district in Jyväskylä, Puukuokka was completed in 2014. It was designed by the OOPEAA Office for Peripheral Architecture based in Seinäjoki, Finland. Puukuokka combines affordable housing with wood construction and the promotion of new technologies.

What should everybody know about the OOPEAA Office for  Architecture? What would be your concise introduction to yourself and your philosophy?

OOPEAA is interested in identifying the opportunities embedded in projects of varying nature and in seeking insightful solutions to questions of many different kinds and on different scales. We are interested in exploring the border zone where different typologies and “modes of being” meet: where rural meets urban, where local meets global, where change meets permanence, and where history meets the future.

What is your overarching vision of the ideal residential building?

In the case of Puukuokka, the goal was to give an identifiable form to a wooden building of rather large scale. The building is the first eight-storey-high (26-meters-tall) wooden apartment building in Finland. The goal was to create a hybrid building that combines the privacy of a single family dwelling with the semi-public character of a shared-space apartment building, including a spacious hallway full of light. The vision is to provide the residents with a functional space that is rich in experiential qualities.

Which elements draw attention in terms of innovation and technology solutions?

For me, being innovative doesn’t mean that one needs to make use of complicated techniques or complex technologies. On the contrary: the simpler a solution is, the better it often works.

Does this architecture have any secret?

You just need to love whatever it is that you do. Without that, there is nothing.