The Monthly European Architectural Newsletter
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December 2010


Wood: new architectures

In Finland, designers are undisputed virtuosos of wood. The Sibelius Hall (by architects Hannu Tikka and Kimmo Lintula), a concert and conference hall located in Lahti, was built entirely with this material and is the venue for the prestigious Spirit of Nature Wood Architecture Award. This biannual award has recently recognised the work of the Austrian architect Hermann Kaufmann for whom wood is essential. Simultaneously, and for the first time, an award also recognised the work of young architects, such as the Finnish Sanna Jokimäki, particularly for her research on prefab building elements. «To me, wood is a warm, flexible, traditional and authentic material. The open landscape of my native region, its hay barns and country houses illustrate the local building traditions in which wood was crucial ». Revitalised for some twenty-odd years now, this material is respected and appreciated again. Its return is now accompanied by numerous technological evolutions. Primarily, the focus is on research and development programmes again, mainly on building systems, assembly or prefab possibilities, uses in combination with metals, stone and concrete. The qualities of a material in its own right are rediscovered, thanks to its unparalleled adaptability and cultural dimension strongly linked to the symbolic and ecological images it conjures up. After all, apart from being economically competitive, wood is a renewable natural resource and its processing requires little energy. At a time when sustainable development is generally shared concern, the architecture industry is re-examining its practices, on a global level. Everywhere, from north to south, wood captivates contemporary architects. Of all the emerging ecological materials, it occupies centre stage, now more than ever.

The Archi-Europe Team

Portrait of the month

JKMM Architects

The Finnish Pavilion at the recently ended Shanghai World Expo 2010 has spotlighted its designer: the architect’s firm JKMM.

As the winning design for the Finnish Pavilion in 2008, the steel-structured huge pot surprises with its scaly shell and airy shape. Floating on water, it is inspired by Finnish landscapes where nature is present everywhere. The shiny white marble look is the result of an unexpected, innovative and ecological material: an injection-moulded and 100 % recyclable composite of recycled plastic and paper. Its 25 000 shingles allowed the recycling of 20 tonnes of residue from production of adhesive paper! « It was our intention to use this material in such a manner that no comparison would be possible with other materials, in terms of shape or size. It is clear that the façade is not made of glass or wood, but it is very difficult to guess the material used, even under close examination, » said the architects. The choice of this original material properly illustrates the theme of the Shanghai world expo: "a better city for a better life".
Its use significantly reduces the impact on the environment. The ecologically built pavilion showcases solutions for future urban architecture : solar panels, plants, recovery and reuse of rainwater, easy assembly and disassembly.

It is a new, dynamic and original vision of Finnish architecture, offering a highly developed design purpose, a handy distribution of volumes and a great sense of space, which the founders of JKMM - Asmo Jaaksi (°1966), Teemu Kurkela (°1966), Samuli Miettinen (°1967) and Juha Mäki-Jyllilä (°1965) – live every day. The four partners started working together during their studies, before joining up in 1998. Currently employing around twenty people, JKMM is a winning team that has landed around sixty awards over the past years, and more than 20 first prizes in architecture competitions. The first of which, i.e. the City Library of Turku, is a remarkable urban project, which successfully inserts 21st-century architecture in a series of far older buildings. After all, the project’s starting point was to create a new library , meeting future challenges while taking into consideration its long and rich history. The architectural ensemble allows harmony between the past and present. By locating the building on the outer perimeter, the architects created an open space in the centre of the buildings. The guiding principle behind the spatial planning is flexibility, since the library’s functions may radically change in the future with the introduction of new media. The chosen materials respect the environment (renderings, natural stone, wood, concrete poured on site). The amply used glass allows for transparency and openness which this type of building must have. Finland is experiencing a renewal of a long Finnish tradition of wooden churches, endorsed by JKMM with the Viikki church. On the outside, the building’s top part is covered with thick poplar shingles which turn grey after a while. The only indication of its religious purpose is a truncated bell tower and a barely visible metal cross. Built with factory-made prefab elements, the church combines the building methods of the past and present. « Its architecture wants to conjure up images of a Finnish forest, of its sacred character. »

The Verkatehdas Arts and Conference Centre in Hämeenlinna was proclaimed The Finnish Steel Construction of the Year 2007 and Finnish Glass Construction of the Year 2008. Verkatehdas is a former 30 000 m² textile factory, now converted into a cultural centre. Considering its complexity, it can compared with a medieval city, with its spacious glass-covered courtyard forming the heart of the fan-shaped area. The gables of the former factory and the new concert hall dominate the urban landscape. Red brickwork, Corten steel and glass are the main building materials used to emphasise the value of the existing structures. The modularity of this technologically sophisticated concert hall allows it to be used for various purposes.

These projects, and the projects still being studied or being completed, fulfil a desire to innovate, as well as common sense and technical excellence. Such an architectural approach implies a careful examination of architectural solutions in every design and scale phase. Passionate about architecture, the JKMM firm wants to create personalised solutions and new processes for each project, thus avoiding standard methods. « Our buildings have a human touch. We have a significant awareness about materials. Respect for people is central to our way of thinking. Our objective is to deliver buildings which improve over the years. And sustainable development remains our primary responsibility, " says CEO Teemu Kurkela.


2. Aurora 2 Extension of the Joensuu University

3. Viikki Church, Helsinki

4. Kalliokielo Apartments

5. City Library, Turku

6. Verkatehdas Factory Cultural Centre, Hämeenlinna

7. Finnish Pavilion, Shanghai Expo 2010

8. Housing for the Elderly in Viikki, Helsinki (2001 – in progress)

9. Heureka, Vantaa Cultural City (2004 – in progress)


Project of the month

Headquarters of the Environment service, Saragossa (Spain)

Winner of the SAIE 2010 competition (Wood category), this highly expressive public building brilliantly illustrates the possibilities of wood and a relationship with the landscape in an environmentally aware context.

For the two partners of Magén Arquitectos, i.e. Jaime Magén Pardo and Francisco J. Magén Pardo, this project which has received the Ricardo Magdalena Architecture Award takes into consideration the particular location on the Ebro riverbank. This unusual location and the topographical characteristics of the site have defined the building’s configuration in an intense relationship with the city and river. The shape of its roof and the creation of a flat roof indeed suggest a genuine interaction with the urban space. Aware of the expressiveness and sensory qualities of the materials, the architects highlighted the contrast between the dense base and the light outer shell, between the black-painted concrete panels, with their different textures, the surrounding glass panels and wooden façades. Selected from the very beginning of the project and using large planks to maximise the expressiveness, ipe covers façades, lintels, sidewalks, walls and ceilings, in both the interior and exterior.

Considering the significant difference in levels, the main entrance is located on the upper floor, on the street side. Housing the administrative offices and environment room, this public use level offers a 180 º panoramic view and gives the impression of floating on the landscape. The basement has a pedestrian and vehicle access on the riverbank level. As an essential element of the landscaping and main view of the building, the roof is configured as a point of view on different levels, connected by ramps and a terrace conceived as an open-air amphitheatre for recreational purposes.

The project’s environmental commitment is evident, not only from the choice of building methods and materials, but also from the energy solutions, resulting in lower maintenance costs. Using renewable energies (solar panels, photovoltaic panels); the building’s consumption can be compensated and the necessary electricity can be supplied for night-time lighting. The roof allows the capture of rainwater and a green roof section helps to reduce cooling needs. Seeing this sculptural building, fully used by the public, it is clear that the social, economic and environmental components also have a high architectural quality. As do all the projects of Magén Arquitectos, since the firm’s foundation in 2000.


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Event in the spotlight

Do not miss the opportunity to come to Munich when BAU 2011 – the World's Leading Trade Fair for Architecture, Materials and Systems – opens its gates to the world of the building industry from 17 to 22 January 2011.

Come and visit Archi-Europe: Hall C2 stand 122!

To receive your free entrance voucher,
click here and fill in the registration form. You will receive a 23-digit e-mail guest ticket number.

Competition in the spotlight

Archi-World® Academy Website Now Online!

The first w
orldwide architecture contest for students in architecture Archi-World® Academy Award (AWA) 2011/2013: "Energy-saving projects and ideas for the future of architecture and urbanism".

The launch of the contest will take place on Wednesday 19th of January at 5 p.m in forum 'Future of building' in hall 2 stand 309, during the International Building Fair Bau 2011, Messe München in Munich, who is also co-organizer. The project already has the full support of the European Commission. The award will give students in architecture coming from the entire world the chance to present their best projects or concepts in the field of energy savings.


BAU 2011
(17 - 22/01/2011) - Munich (DE)
Sverre Fehn Intuition – Reflection – Construction
(10/12/2010 - 20/02/2011) - Brussels (BE)
Mobi Boom - L’explosion du Design (1945-1975)
(23/09/2010 – 12/01/2011) - Paris (FR)
Parallel Benet Rossell
(>23/01/2011) - Barcelona (ES)
New Harvest
(26/11/2010 - 15/01/2011) - Amsterdam (NL)
Mario Botta. Architecture 1960-2010
(>23/01/2011) - Rovereto (IT)
Under Destruction
(15/10/2010 - 23/01/2011) - Basel (CH)
To the Arts, Citizens!
(21/11/2010 - 13/03/2011) - Porto (PT)
>> read more


2011 Skyscraper Competition
Deadline : 11/01/2011
2011 Mock Firms International Skyscraper Challenge
Deadline: 15/01/2011
Deadline : 22/01/2011
>> read more


1. What Architects Cook Up
160 pages | € 29.90
>> read more

2. Architecture et développement durable – un gigantesque défi
96 pages | € 13.90
Editions Archibooks
ISBN : 978-2-35733-112-9

>> read more

3. Stone
Pierre Loze & Francis Tourneur

236 pages | € 49,50
Prisme Editions

ISBN 978-2-930451-07-7
>> read more

4. Staging Space
Scenic Interiors and Spatial Experiences
R. Klanten, L. Feireiss
240 pages |
Die Gestalten Verlag
ISBN 978-3-89955-316-1

>> read more


Copyright 2010 Archi-Europe Group nv/sa
Responsible Editor : Jacques Allard
Chief Editor : Marie-Claire Regniers
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