Aalto University – Väre Building

  • area / size 488,681 sqft
  • Completed 2018
  • Location Espoo, Finland,
  • Verstas Architects was tasked with designing the new space for Aalto University with the Väre Building in the architecturally famous town of Espoo, Finland.

    The Aalto University Väre Building is the new home of the Aalto University School of Art, Design and Architecture and the School of Business. Väre, which means ripple or glimmer in English, brings together the schools of design and business in a globally unique way. It is situated in the Otaniemi campus in Espoo, Finland, world-famous of its modernist architecture, and introduces a significant new dynamic to the campus. The Väre building plays a key role both in the transformation of the Aalto University, a merger of earlier universities of business, arts and design and technical sciences, and in the densification and diversification of the Otaniemi district as a part of the growing Finnish metropolitan region. The architectural design is based on the winning entry in an open international competition in two stages.

    The Väre building is adjacent to the earlier main building and library designed by Alvar and Elissa Aalto in the 1960s. The project had therefore the added challenge of fitting into the context of highly respected modern master. Aino and Alvar Aalto laid out the whole original masterplan for the carefully landscaped campus in 1948. Väre is in a dialogue this composition, while it also changes the dynamic of the campus essentially.

    The design forms an entirely new central square that connects the old and new university buildings, an entrance to a new underground line and a shopping centre included in the Väre building. The 7,300 square meter shopping centre has restaurants, cafés, a gym and retail spaces. Thus, the new square and the Väre Building serves as a place of casual encounters and while it also provides a series of spaces for interaction for students and employees.

    The building adapts the classic courtyard university typology to contemporary ways of learning and pedagogy. The spatial layout based on a lattice of simple project space units supports interaction and flexible use. The carefully planned spatial sequence unfolds with rooms arranged around sky-lit atriums that open views to all the floors and the stairs connecting them. Transparent walls reveal the creative action in the project spaces and the ground floor lobby is open to the public.

    The layout and massing break the large volume of Väre into a cluster of smaller units helping it adapt to the context and scale of the park-like campus. The two principal facade alignments are derived from the old main buildings. The use of hand-laid red brick follows Aalto’s masterful treatment of the material while the use of glass patterned glass gives the building a contemporary expression. Inside, wood surfaces highlight the flow of the spatial sequence through the building. The schools of design and business have their own characters. In the School of Arts, Design and Architecture, the sculptural, self-supporting steel stairs stand out against a neutral backdrop. In the School of Business, limestone, oak and a warm metal colour create an ambiance that is both cozy and dignified.

    The Väre Building is environmentally friendly, energy-efficient and water-saving. 200 bicycle parking places and changing rooms encourage cycling. Ground-source heat pump covers 90% of the heat consumption and roof-top solar panels around 6% of the electricity consumption. Ventilation is demand-controlled and has heat recovery. Lighting is controlled, too. Furthermore, 75% of the construction waste was recycled.

    Architect: Verstas Architects
    Photography: Tuomas Uusheimo, Mika Huisman, Andreas Meichsner