Among Dipoli’s main features are its seven sculptural fireplaces, its exceptionally multi-functional layout, the natural light that penetrates the spaces between the building’s thick framework, and its confoundingly modernist cavelife spaces with their angular plastic geometry, juxtaposed against the rationalised office area. Built with due reverence to its origins on the foundations of the former technology students’ residence, Aalto University’s Dipoli building is now protected thanks to the university’s efforts. Today, Dipoli functions as the university’s main building and as a meeting venue.
Welcoming and energised
It is estimated that by 2025 there will be three to four times as many people living and working in Otaniemi than in 2015.
The architectural style of the former Helsinki University of Technology very much represented the 1950s modernist fondness for urban planning around car transport and monumentalism, where home life, work, and public services were thought of separately. According to Antti Ahlava, the tenets of contemporary design are human-centredness, walkable environments, multifunctional outdoor spaces, and the blurring or merging of organisations. While nature on campus is set to be preserved, its vibrancy will only increase.
The more tightly-knit Otaniemi of today also has a new age-group to serve – the hundreds of school children who use the university’s buildings as part of its ‘School as a service’ operating model.
New apartments are being built in the Kivimies area on Otaniemi’s southern point. These will be joined by a Chemistry district in the vicinity of the Metro station, which will also include recreational space for students, funded separately through a project run by the university’s student organisations. Apartments are also being built alongside the Otakaari district, in Maari and Servinniemi.
The multifunctional spaces on the building’s ground floor will be open to everyone and home to innovative and welcoming workspaces, cafes, and restaurants.
The idea behind this plan is that students and employees will create the daytime buzz about the place, while the apartments’ new residents will continue this into the night. And thanks to its excellent transport connections, including the Metro and the upcoming Jokeri Light Rail line, Otaniemi is the ideal venue to organise events serving the whole Greater Helsinki region.
In Antti Ahlava’s estimation, Otaniemi has been a test case for ways to develop the suburban areas of the 1950s and 60s into more people-centred, multifunctional, and enjoyable spaces. ‘The same principles can be applied to developments in similar areas to ours. In fact, the successes we’ve had are being closely followed by other cities.’
Everyone visiting, living, and working in Otaniemi is currently bearing witness to the frenetic building work going on throughout the area. In the years to come, the Aalto Works district, home to innovation and start-up enterprises, the Aalto Studios media centre, and much more will all sit alongside the area’s new residential developments.
‘Some people seem to think that when the work on Väre and the School of Business is over, the development stops there. In actual fact this is just a small taste of what the future holds!’
Text: Dakota Lavento
Main image caption: The Harald Herlin Learning Centre, the former Helsinki University of Technology library, belongs to a series of important library designed by Alvar Aalto. When observing the fan-shaped building, one’s eye is drawn to the use of indirect light, staircases, and human scale. The renovation was awarded the Finlandia Prize for Architecture in the autumn of 2017.
This article was first published in Aalto University Campus journal in December 2018.