Mikki Ristola and Department of Architecture have received the international RIBA President's Medals award
Mikki Ristola's Master's thesis "Visitor Centre for Petäjävesi Old Church" has received a Commendation in the Silver Medal Category of the 2016 RIBA President's Medals. Awarded annually since 1836 by the Royal Institute of British Architects, the RIBA President’s Medals are one of the most prestigious awards in architecture education, rewarding talent, promoting innovation and encouraging excellence in the study of architecture worldwide.
Petäjävesi Old Church was included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1994 as an emblematic example of a Finnish medieval church. The church is specially known for its masterful use of wood as a building material. The Church, however, currently lacks any service spaces for tourists and visitors. A new visitor centre was envisioned to provide necessary services under one roof and in close proximity to the historic church. The design of the new Visitor Centre of Petäjävesi Old Church was developed in collaboration with the faculty of Wood Architecture at the Aalto University Department of Architecture. The design of the building was realised to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the old church.
The new Visitor Centre embodies the essential architectural qualities of the Old Church through its extensive use of wood, complex relationship between structure and volume, and spatial sequence. In medieval Finland, a row of gable-roofed stables was typically located along the road leading to medieval churches. These church stables provided shelter for the horses, boats and arms of parishioners for the duration of church service. By serving and providing shelter for visitors to the medieval church, the new visitor centre can be seen as a contemporary interpretation of this traditional service building typology.
The new visitor centre is a distinctly contemporary addition to the historical surroundings of the Old Church. The old church stands as a representation of the most advanced knowledge and techniques of wood construction from the time it was built. In the same way, the new visitor centre aims to be a progressive wooden building in its own time, by making use of the latest advances in wood construction. The design makes particular use of the possibilities of prefabrication and computer-driven machining of cross-laminated timber elements.
Mikki Ristola’s thesis "Visitor Centre for Petäjävesi Old Church" was supervised and tutored by professors Pekka Heikkinen and Niko Sirola. Mikki Ristola (born 1988) graduated from Aalto University Department of Architecture in 2015.
Currently, Ristola is a partner at the Helsinki-based architecture practice Aarti Ollila Ristola Architects. Among other projects, the office is currently working on an 8000 m2 school building for the former harbour area of Jätkäsaari in downtown Helsinki, based on the first prize in an open architectural competition in 2015.