Finnish architecture is usually known for its closeness to nature. The reasons for this are a low population density and late urbanisation, which is why people still know to live with northern nature and the use of local resources, such as wood as a building material.

This tradition offers Finnish architects good conditions for pursuing carbon-neutral construction, although its potential has not yet been fully exploited. In any case, timber construction has increased its popularity, and the Wood City, designed by Anttinen Oiva Architects, shows that it can even be used to build high-rise residential and office complexes in the centre of Helsinki.

Many architects today think that, instead of complex technical systems, the path to sustainable architecture can be found in traditional building techniques. For example, K2S architects have designed a new church in Ylivieska with solid masonry walls, timber roof trusses and natural ventilation. The steep-roof exterior references medieval parish churches, while natural light fills the interior in a way similar to that in modernist sacral buildings.

The pursuit of sustainability has made conserving, reusing and transforming existing buildings an increasingly important part of architects’ work. This is indicated by the fact that the Architecture Finlandia Award has been given to such a project three years in a row. The most recent winner is the Kirkkonummi Library by JKMM Architects, where the old building was wrapped inside a copper-plated extension.

SAFA: Architecture in tune with nature

Left: K2S Architects, Ylivieska Church 2021. Photo: Tuomas Uusheimo. Right: Anttinen Oiva Architects, Wood City, Helsinki 2021. Photo: Tuomas Uusheimo

Web: www.safa.fi

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