009 Aalto University Campus, Helsinki


How can one intervene with the Otaniemi campus in a way that is both innovative and respectful to the campus great heritage and to its unique natural surroundings? How can one create the physical framework that encourages innovation and ambition for the people within it?

We wish to provide another layer in the palimpsest of urban developments of the campus, one that acknowledges the past and wishes to embark into an exciting future. We are inspired from the existing when proposing a new way of thinking about the future of education.

Heart to the campus

In the urban scale, our proposal creates a new heart to the campus, preserves its identity, its cultural heritage and unity while providing new learning environments. We provide a melting pot – a chain of public shared spaces that in its turn create the human interaction. This interaction, we believe, is the basis of education and learning.


Our strategy of intervening in Aalto’s skillful placement of the buildings in the landscape is to use one metaphorical line, which effortlessly creates a series of volumes, organizes the program, generates spacious public spaces and sculptures the landscape. It follows the alignment of the existing buildings and the vegetation in the site and creates a clear identity while being open and flexible.
Sustainability is an inherent part of the design process – The careful placement of the buildings protects the plazas from the harsh weather conditions, such as wind and humidity, and creates protected outdoor spaces. The new buildings are in dialogue with the existing ones that forms a sequence of shared spaces and plazas that are at the same time continuous and unified while providing diverse experiences and perspectives. Both the buildings and the shared spaces integrate seamlessly in the natural environment and into Aalto’s building groups.

Aalto’s main building remains the center piece in the campus’ architecture. A generous plaza is created to the west of the Aalto building, which “mirrors” the Alvar Square, creating a prominent position for the main building.


The public spaces of the buildings are connected via a semi sunken public level. This level contains the common, commercial and restaurant facilities. It allows a continuous protected circulation path on one hand and a singular identity for each building on the other. The access to the public level is provided through a manipulation of the terrain, the landscape, which exposes the shared level. This manipulation creates varied landscapes, keeps the architecture of the buildings coherent and forms a new relationship between inside and outside.

The outdoor and indoor public spaces encourage interdisciplinary education by providing a place for unexpected and exciting connections to occur.

New Learning Environment

We create a continuity of interaction spaces both in the campus scale – the different plazas – and in the building scale – communal zones. The ‘in-between’ spaces, both in the urban and architectural scale, form the new main space for learning. Such are the plazas that are formed and framed by the new structures and the existing buildings, and such are also the public spaces in between the studios and laboratories in each of the new buildings. They provide places where students, staff and visitors can meet randomly and create an intellectual, academic or friendly interaction that is in the base of innovation.

A new heart is created to the campus – it is brave but also respectful, memorable but also modest, unique but also contextual.

Helsinki, Finland
48,000 m2 including: Art, Architecture and Design faculties, retail and restaurants
International Competition
Date: January 05, 2013