Urban Adaptation winner: S M L XL



by  Francesco Allaix and Julio Orduña

Monitoimipuutalo (literally in Finnish "multifunction wooden building") is a new community centre located at the intersection of three neighbourhoods, just a few kilometres north of Helsinki's city centre. North of the community centre lays the park of Toukulan rantapuisto and Arabianranta, consisting of mainly a university campus and housing blocks developed in the noughties. South of it, a semi-abandoned industrial area stretches for about 1,5 km till the new neighbourhood of Kalasatama and the eponymous metro station. On the eastern side, beyond the arterial road Hermannin rantatie, lays Hermanni housing area, developed mainly during the 50' and 60'.

The chosen location defines the entrance to the existing park and will be a corner stone of the area's future development, given the fact that the semi-abandoned area on the south is planned to become a new neighbourhood, connecting over the years the already thriving neighbourhoods of Arabianranta and Kalasatama. Therefore, a multipurpose timber structure is perfectly suited to adapt to the present and future needs of the area while hosting a wide range of uses to serve the local community.

Monitoimipuuutalo takes a clue from the typical XIX century (or older) apartment block, where its section expresses a great functional, social, and economic diversity. Then Modernism brought segregation of functions, with optimisation of structures as a priority. The proposal takes the best of both schemes, maximising variety and efficiency in an apparent oxymoron.

Jury's comments

"The winning entry, S M L XL, is a well thought out proposal that showcases the flexibility of modular wooden construction in relation to a program that can be adapted over time making it possible to create an ever-changing mix of program." 

– Rahel Belatchew


How to ensure that a building can be active and popular over its maximum lifespan?

Adaptability is the fundamental goal. Rather than a generic box with an abundant (therefore often inefficient) floor height, Monitoimipuutalo incorporates 4 different floor heights. All multiples of the minimum height of 2,7 m., the apartment's standard floor-to-ceiling height. Different heights define different spaces optimised to host different functions.

  • S-premises: height 2,7 m, the module -> small repetitive units as housing in all its variations
  • M- premises: height 5,9 m, or 2x the module + floor slab -> medium size spaces often enjoying a mezzanine option, as for eating, leisure, etc.
  • L- premises: height 4,05 m, or 1,5x the module -> large size spaces as for working, learning, shopping, double height option (see Main structural ideas), etc.
  • XL-premises: height 9,1 m, or 3x the module + floor slabs -> leisure, sport, art, etc.

Extreme variety in section is combined with an extreme simplicity in plan: the bearing timber structure follows a standard module of 8,10 m through the whole building. This combination of variety and standardisation frees the space to be used for a wide range of activities.

The public functions are host at the lower levels, so to foster interaction between inside and outside, engaging with the neighbours and inviting to enter the full height atrium or take a shortcut through the vegetated passage. As the programs inside the building change over time, Monitoimitalo flexibility and generosity will keep it active and popular.

roducts that meet customers’ needs are made by employees who are highly competent and willing to learn and reinvent themselves. Our employees are guided by Metsä Group’s values: responsible profitability, reliability, cooperation and renewal. We operate in line with our values and let the results speak for themselves.

Responsible profitability means that we improve our profitability while also considering the environment and listening to our stakeholders. All of our other values lay the foundation for responsible profitability.

The team

Francesco Allaix, architect graduated in Trieste, Italy. 

I studied in Trieste and Barcelona before moving to Helsinki. After working as freelancer as well as in local offices, I have spent the last 7 years at L Arkkitehdit, focusing on architecture design and sustainability consultancy. As project leader of the Sustainability Service team I developed knowledge on LCA, carbon footprint calculation, daylight analysis, timber structures, and all possible ways to improve the projects and deliver quantifiable results to clients.

I have been project leader in competitions and in preliminary design development, such as housing, office and land use planning.

Julio Orduña Sánchez, Mexican Architect with a masters in landscape architecture from the BUAP (Puebla, Mexico) and Concordia university (Montreal, Canada). Once in Helsinki I have worked in several architectural studios having emphasis in visuals and graphics. I have taken part in numerous architectural competitions in which proudly 17 of them we have won together with the team. Five years ago I founded in Helsinki with two colleagues, a visualisation studio called OlaDesign LTD, since then I have taken part in projects mainly in Finland.

Other Urban adaptation winners

Want to learn more about the possibilities of modular wood construction?

Here are some interesting reference cases about efficient use of prefabricated elements.