It’s slightly bent and wooden. The roof is broad pitched. The dark outer shell of the timeless building on the street side protects the elevated courtyard, creating an intimate and human space cradled by the high building mass.
This is a description of the eight-storey wooden building Puukuokka in Jyväskylä, which was awarded with the Finlandia Prize for Architecture on Wednesday. It’s the first wooden apartment building of this height in the country but according to Anssi Lassila, the chief architect, the wooden construction is the way of the future.
It’s also the way of the past that ended in flames. Since the 14th century, especially during the dry summer seasons, fires in the city were quite common until the middle of the 19th century. Some of the largest fires happened in Vaasa and Turku, where in the latter, 11,000 were left homeless in the largest city fire in the history of the Nordic countries.
How can we still trust in wooden architecture in city infrastructure, especially when considering apartment buildings? “Because of technology,” Lassila said in an interview for Finland Today, “for example, the modern extinguishing systems extinguish sparking fires effectively. Generally, in most apartment fires the furniture gets burned and very little damage is done to the construction of the building.”
“A wooden building equipped with a modern extinguishing system is about 50 times safer than a normal house that is constructed of concrete.” It’s also, obviously, more ecological than producing concrete.
“Wood is a pleasant material. Its characteristics are easily suitable for constructing buildings. It’s also lighter than many other building materials.”
The shortlist was selected by the Finnish Association of Architects, a non-profit, professional organisation. The winner of the five finalists was selected by Kaija Saariaho, a Finnish composer.
“I selected Puukuokka as it represents things that I myself value both in architecture and life,” Saariaho said, “It is a bold and ambitious piece of work that seeks to explore something new, aim for the human, develop ecological concepts and improve the quality of life.
“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 acoustics and soundproofing were great challenges when building from wood, according to Lassila. He decided to use massive wood and Cross Laminated Timber CLT, as the construction material. CLT is a solid wood construction product consisting of at least three bonded single-layer panels making it thick, fire safe and environmentally friendly. “Wood as material means warmth,” Lassila said, “I grew up along the woods in central Finland in a farm house in the municipality of Soini.”
“In that sense, wood as a material is very natural to me.”
The Finlandia candidates on the shortlist