Only way out is in

The Interplay of Cultures 2023 studio is a Master's course in the Department of Architecture at the School of Arts, Design & Architecture. In the exhibition, five student projects are showcased through different visual mediums.
digital illustration, writings with white paint on top of a rock saying words: heat, adapting, experiences that you can't understand by reading a piece of paper, in a world, whose world? additionally a human figure and symbols.
Image: Interplay of Cultures Studio students

Culture and locality transforming architecture and urban design

Our design decisions are often driven by factors invisible even to ourselves, such as cultural aspects, mindsets, and norms.

Only way out is in focuses on these factors, bringing together students from different cultural backgrounds and environmental conditions to solve a common challenge. It pushes students, and through their work the wider public, to consider those invisible factors and to see their everyday environment in a different light. Here, culture and locality become starting points for imagining alternatives for architecture and urban design.

In year 2023 the studio was organized in collaboration with Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana, and Tampere University.

Student works

  1. Street workers' experience of safety
    A study of the perceived safety of street works in Kumasi, Ghana, and planning guidelines based on the study.
    Markus Nikander, Department of Architecture, School of Arts, Design & Architecture
  2. Layers of Meaning 
    Aims at uncovering urban narratives of Kumasi, Ghana.
    Karolis Lasys, Sonia Sali, Department of Architecture, School of Arts, Design & Architecture
  3. House and Tree - a school extension in Kumasi, Ghana
    House and Tree is a school extension project for 800 additional students on a site next to an existing school.
    Fanni Kangasniemi, Emma Sjöholm, Department of Architecture, School of Arts, Design & Architecture
  4. Design Centre of recycled fabrics 
    A holistic project tackling the life cycle of fabrics and fabric waste.
    Jessy Yau Kit Sze, Department of Architecture, School of Arts, Design & Architecture
  5. The way through every day  
    Creates places where people could gather and have a good time with friends and family.
    Venla Kotilainen, Mario Poma, Sofía Prieto Álvarez, Jora van Baarle, Department of Architecture, School of Arts, Design & Architecture

Project team

Aalto University

  • Saija Hollmén, professor of practice in humanitarian architecture;
  • Taru Niskanen, architect SAFA, M.Sc., university teacher PhD candidate, WitLAB;
  • Helena Sandman, architect SAFA, postdoc researcher at Aalto University.

Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana

  • Alexander Marful, associate professor, department of architecture;
  • Maria Panta, lecturer, department of architecture.

Tampere University

  • Panu Lehtovuori, professor of planning theory;
  • Anna Koskinen, teaching assistant.


Taru Niskanen

Designs for a Cooler Planet 2023 hero image. Graphic design Veera Kemppainen.

Designs for a Cooler Planet

Open exhibitions and events in Otaniemi from 6 Sept to 6 Oct 2023 with the theme Invisible – what don't we see even though we should?

Kente fabric

Interplay of Cultures Studio (Aalto ARTS)

Interplay of Cultures studio

Aalto WiT LAB

WiT LAB - Research (external link)

WiT LAB is a platform for interdisciplinary research focusing on resilient communities and humanitarian architecture. Ongoing research projects focus on cultural and issues concerning architectural design, disaster prevention, challenges of migration and relocation of poor communities.
Links to resent publications of the research group can be found below.

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