Welcome to the Magazine RY Rakennettu Ympäristö, and our Theme Issue on Beauty and Light.

We open the issue with an interview of the new Minister of Agriculture and the Environment, Mr. Kimmo Tiilikainen. Mr. Tiilikainen has earlier served for a time as Minister of the Environment. He tells our Editor, Mr. Lauri Jääskeläinen, that combining the two portfolios is an art of compromises, and that he sees his role as a builder of bridges. Giving a boost to housing projects is a priority for the present Government, and streamlining the processes of town planning and simplifying building regulations is on the table. A Committee appointed to renew the Land Use and Building Act, should present its proposal by next spring. Regional administration will be re-examined, and the previous Governments ideas on the organization of Building Control will be taken into account. The use of renewable energy will be intensified, as will be the use of wood.

The Finnish climate makes it an excellent idea to prefabricate building parts indoors in a controlled environment. Will this improve the quality of construction, asks Mr. Anssi Lassila, Architect with the OOPEAA Office for Peripheral Architecture. The author is the designer of the Puukuokka multi-story timber-framed residential blocks in the Jyväskylä suburb of Kuokkala, and presents his project here. The first block of the project was the first eight-story high wooden apartment building in the country, and it has just won the Finnish Timber Award (Puupalkinto) of 2015 as well as the Finlandia Prize for Architecture. The building is composed of prefabricated modular elements utilizing Stora Enso´s CLT cross laminated timber material. The Architect aimed at a building where the wood material dominates the architecture in every way, instead of being like many other wooden buildings which look like they might be made of concrete, with just some wooden parts in the facades.

The best way to create a beautiful environment is not to aim for it deliberately, says Ms. Ulla Vahtera, Architect with the Building Control Department of the City of Helsinki. Instead, beauty comes a by-product of doing everything else right: location, scale, materials and details. She presents cases in point, particularly the Joensuu Campus of the University of Eastern Finland. Other cases are shown of France and Copenhagen. It is confusing that construction gets constantly more complicated. New solutions must be tried out although we have no experience of them.

The Light Festival of Tampere was opened on Friday, 23 October, and will keep the streets of the City illuminated during the dark period of the year until 13 March 2016. Ms. Eija Muttonen-Mattila, Head of the City´s Building Control Department, tells that the Festival will present both nostalgic figures and modern, innovative light technology. The entire length of Hämeenkatu be lit with spheres of light hung from trees, and the Hämeensilta Bridge will be decorated by horse figures. Old light figures from the 60s have been taken from storage, and put on show in P-Hämppi parking hall for the duration of the Light Festival.

This time of the year, when daylight is in short supply, our bodies react to the darkness. In this dark period, the Brand New Helsinki Project aims at crystallizing what is good about Helsinki now and presenting a bold vision of the future. Ms. Jutta Telivuo, Architect with the Graphic Concrete Oy company, lists some of Helsinki´s strengths such as the Linnanmäki amusement park, the new Ferris Wheel, and of course the opportunities for hiking, cycling and swimming and the free access to seaside areas.

The City Centre of Lahti is being developed with an emphasis on pedestrian traffic. A two-level parking hall, located under the Market Square, was opened last April. The City arranged a competition for the lighting of the Square in 2013, and the winner was our frequent contributor, Ms. Marjut Kauppinen, Architect and Private Consultant, with her planning team. The winning proposition was in a way minimalistic: as few fittings as possible, but of high quality and low-key design.

What will multi-story residential buildings be like in the future? Mr. Lars Mattila, Architect and Carpenter, says that the ecological indicators used to calculate sustainability – heat loss calculations, the carbon footprint, energy efficiency etc. – have lost their context and are not sufficient to solve our problems. The increasing production of plastics creates major environmental problems. In Finland, the building industry gave up using simple and massive structures in the 1960´s. They were replaced by complicated multi-layer solutions that humidity cannot pass through. Buildings were no longer made to last from father to son, but had a limited life span. The Writer suggest that if a substance is harmful if it finds its way into nature, it should not be used in construction at all. When a structure is designed, its future repairs should be kept in mind.

In the Pukinmäki area in Helsinki, a residential plot was subdivided to allow the construction of a new house. There already was a narrow garage on the new plot. The Owner decided to convert the garage into a single-family house, abandoning the chance to add a new house on the plot. Mr. Tommi Lindh, Architect and Director of the Alvar Aalto Foundation and Museum, was the principal designer of the conversion, and tells us the story of the Project. To gain more living space, the basement of the garage was also converted into a bedroom, a study and a toilet, and a spiral staircase was added to gain indoor access to the rooms downstairs. The building regulations did not exactly allow all the solutions used in the project, but as it was a case of largely experimental construction, exceptions were made.

New practical tools have been developed for comprehensive urban planning, for development projects and for the research of cities. The tools have been presented in a Town Planning Revue article called Theory of Urban Fabrics. The article is presented by one of its authors, Mr. Leo Kosonen, Senior Architect and Independent Researcher. The expression ”Urban Fabric” is used here for different city systems, which all have their own special characteristics. Each fabric has special features based on the scale of the city, its functions and special qualities such as orientation in the city. According to this classification, cities consist of three fabrics, whose names are:
• the walking city fabric
• the transit city fabric
• the car city fabric.

One of the most popular works on City Planning in recent years has been Jeff Beck´s book Walkable City. The book´s main thesis of city planning – designing urban environments around pedestrians and their ability to walk – has caused much discussion in the USA, although the idea may be more easily accepted in Finland. Cities like Portland have already benefited by moving away from automobile-centric planning, the Author said on his first visit to Finland last spring. The visit and the book are introduced by Ms. Katri Isotalo, Editor.

Health hazards in buildings fall under the jurisdiction of Environmental Health Care officials. The new Finnish Health Protection regulations specify the competence required from professionals performing inspections or research in residences. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has nominated Fise Oy, the Agency for the Qualification of Professionals in the Building, HVAC and Real Estate Sector in Finland, to verify the competence of researchers of dampness problems. In certain other aspects, the verifying authority will be the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. The situation is presented by Ms. Marita Mäkinen, M.Sc. and Managing Director of Fise Oy.

The Finnish Timber Council (Puuinfo) arranged an Excursion to France last October. Our Editor took part, and shares his experiences with us. Among the attractions of the trip were a large timber Tennis Hall in Grenoble, a school in Limeil-Brevannes that produces more energy than it consumes, and a school campus in Saint-Martin-en-Haut. Our Editor also points out that the concept of a local community in France differs greatly from our Finnish communities. While we have 317 local communities, the French have about 36 000 in a country less than twice the size of ours.

In Berlin, the concession of the local electric power distributor, Stromnetz Berlin, has expired. There has been much discussion whether the new operator should be private of a communal organization. Berlin is also embracing the “Smart City” concept that, among other things, means using digital information to monitor actual energy consumption in real time. Ms. Aino El Solh, a Berlin-based Editor, also tells us that the development of renewable energy sources in Germany has progressed to a point where a quarter of all energy production is based on wind and solar power.

In March, a Conference was held in Riga, Latvia, to promote a discussion on cultural heritage and new architecture and design, and ways to preserve historical urban environment and foster the development of high quality living space. Ms. Marianne Lehtimäki, Architect and Private Consultant, reports that good practices on conversions and accessibility were also presented.

Juhani Nortomaa

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