The Otaniemi campus can be likened to a discussion between the works of Finland’s most respected architects from different decades.
The jewel of Finnish architecture
The core of Otaniemi is a parkland-style campus established in the 1950s, the overall vision of the campus being that of Alvar Aalto, with individual buildings having been designed by Aalto and other celebrated Finnish architects such as Reima and Raili Pietilä and Heikki and Kaija Sirén.
Heikki and Kaija Sirén designed the Otaniemi student village as well as the chapel in the photo. Photo: Espoo parishes.
The touch of many current, well known Finnish architects is also evident in Otaniemi. ALA Architects, who received the State Award for Architecture in 2012, are the designers of the Metro station as well as the renovation of the Reima and Raili Pietilä-designed Dipoli building. New buildings being built in the centre of the campus are based on the winning design by Verstas Architects called Väre. Verstas Architects received the State Award for Architecture in 2015. The renovation of the Harald Herlin Learning Centre (formerly library) was designed by NRT Architects and received the Finlandia Prize for Architecture 2017.
Modernist heritage on display
The fan-like structure of the Undergraduate Centre (Otakaari 1) forms the roof of the large lecture halls. Photo: Tuomas Uusheimo.
Otaniemi was mainly built mainly in an era when the so-called functionalist building style was dominant. The campus’ oldest building send a clear message in their material choice: red bricks are a reference to old Finnish industrial architecture. They represent the close relationship of the work being done in the buildings to the industry. Completed in 1964, the old main building of the Helsinki University of Technology is now called the Undergraduate Centre. The building’s main auditorium, at the end of the old manor’s lime tree rows, presents an impressive silhouette. The building and library flank the green broadly.
Alvar Aalto’s noticeable influence
Alvar Aalto was a masterful user of indirect light. Light is first reflected on the white ceiling and from it, down to the hall. Photo of the Undergraduate Centre’s Aalto hall (former main auditorium). Kuva: Tuomas Uusheimo.
Alvar Aalto designed the original layout of the Otaniemi campus and the main building of the Helsinki University of Technology (now the Aalto University Undergraduate Centre, Otakaari 1), as well as the Otaniemi library building (now the Harald Herlin Learning Centre, Otaniementie 9). Alvar Aalto's office also designed other buildings on the campus; one of them is the shopping centre.
The renovation of this culturally and historically significant, protected building was completed in the autumn of 2015. The aim of the renovation was an accessible, approachable and enabling environment. The chief architects for the renovation were NRT Architects. The Undergraduate Centre received the Barrier-Free Finland (Esteetön Suomi) award in 2015. Due to the building’s protected status, particular requirements had to be met in the renovation work..
The interiors of the Harald Herlin Learning Centre beautifully exhibit the features characteristic of Alvar Aalto’s design.
The library building was renovated in 2016 and hatched into a multi-purpose Harald Herlin Learning Centre. Its dynamic and modern premises provide support to multidisciplinary and novel kind of learning, research and work. In the architectural career of Alvar Aalto, the Harald Herlin Learning Centre and the Undergraduate Centre form one of the most important building complexes.
Dipoli becomes an interactive main building
The building designed by Reima and Raili Pietilä is iconic and visually distinctive.
Dipoli building was designed by Raili and Reima Pietilä and is a piece of art whose architecture follows its own logic. The building is cave-like in its nature and Finnish bedrock is an important part of both the exterior and the interior.
In its time, Dipoli was a very radical design. The building project was commissioned by the students of Helsinki University of Technology, and the completed building was the hub of their cultural activities for a long time.
Today, the building has changed hands to Aalto University, who has renovated Dipoli to be the university’s new main building. Dipoli is open to everyone and shows the university’s activities in various ways. All of the building’s office and work spaces are common-use and function as a testbed for new ways of working and learning.
The building opened for use in August 2017. The renovation project respected Reima and Raili Pietilä's original design and restored the unique architecture of the building.
New architecure at the campus centre
Väre is a new building for the use of the School of Arts, Design and Architecture. Publically open spaces are on the lower floors, with more private spaces in the upper floors. Photo: Verstas Architects.
A whole new block is being built in the centre of the campus. It will consist of buildings for the use of the School of Arts, Design and Architecture and for the School of Business, a Metro Centre with shops and services, and the Aalto University metro station. The plan is based on the winning suggestion of Verstas Architects in the Campus2015 architectural competition. The buildings form a clear and distinctive architectural whole whose spaces are flexible to accommodate changing needs and space arrangements.