Arkkitehdit Casagrande: Novel ideas for functional housing
Text: Jo Iivonen | Photos © Arkkitehdit Casagrande
Creating functional living arrangements is permanently at the heart of the work of Arkkitehdit Casagrande, a Finnish architectural firm that has carved out a niche as a developer of compact apartments with such well thought-out floorplans that the developments keep selling out off-plan.
Highly functional floorplans and the philosophy of always putting user-friendliness first, drive the work of Caterina Casagrande. The Turku-based architect founded her namesake agency in 2005 to fill what she identified as a gap in the market: creating architectural solutions tailored for a changing society’s needs.
“On one hand, we have rising construction costs and increasingly stiff regulations,” Casagrande says. “On the other hand, we have new types of families, single parents, children who alternate between two parents, older people who are looking for services. The existing housing stock doesn’t match the needs of these groups.”
The firm’s large-scale residential projects have been highly successful. Casagrande puts this down to the agency’s expertise in creating compact but highly functional floorplans. “Typically, all units in our below-50-square-metre-apartment developments are sold off-plan,” Casagrande says. “There’s a lot of demand for housing where the costs are being kept down by smaller square footage, but where functionality doesn’t suffer as a result.”
Finland’s position as the EU’s northernmost housing market throws in a raft of challenges. “We need to build constructions that can handle temperature variation of between 50 and 60 degrees,” Casagrande explains. “Doing that is not cheap, but you could also say that the additional pressure is what has helped Finnish architects develop innovative ways to boost efficiency.”
One of the firm’s recent projects includes a pilot scheme that blurs the line between the private and public sectors. The development, located in Parainen, includes residential rental units and desirable add-ons such as communal swimming pool and a children’s daycare centre. The twist is that the right to use the swimming pool will be leased out to the local town. Although the town is also a small co-investor in the development, the scheme effectively ensures an additional stream of income for the private investors.
Casagrande sees it as a win-win and, if successful, the scheme could be repeated elsewhere. “Many of our towns are struggling financially so they can’t offer facilities such as these for everyone. In our model, the scheme is privately funded, but in the end, the community at large benefits.”
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