Finnish Russian School

The existing Finnish Russian School in the Kaarela district in Helsinki will be demolished and replaced with a new one. The redesign of the school’s outdoor areas was one of the primary tasks in the design competition as in the current situation the traffic noise from the nearby highway is somewhat unbearable. In our proposal the placement of the new school building and the possible new sports hall creates a clearly defined multifunctional yard area that is protected from both noise and pollution.

The longish volume of the school building follows the western and northern edges of the site. The building has openings on all sides. Its west facade incorporates a vertical indoor garden that drastically improves the views towards the highway. The service traffic is also directed to this side of the building. The east facade opens towards the yard. The entrances for the youngest children are located at the north end of this façade, the nearest to the drop-off area. The south facade opens towards a new public footpath crossing the site and also includes an indoor connection to the sports hall across the path.

The learning environment that our proposal creates is active and offers the users various atmospheres to choose from. The various rooms and areas can be closed off or joined together. Both the interior and the exterior encourage the pupils to study, act and move around. in addition to private study nooks, they can find climbing walls and other activity spots all over the building The communication between the pupils and the teaching staff, as well as the sense of community are facilitated by the creation of a central indoor plaza around which all the other spaces are located and to which they are visually linked to.

The pupils gather on the central plaza, the heart of the building, to dine, study, practice and hang out. In the evenings and on weekends the area can be rented out for plays, conferences and other events. A large staircase leading to first floor functions as seating and the open learning area for arts and crafts studies on ground level can be easily connected to it. The action on the plaza is also visible from the open balcony circling it.

The facilities for the youngest pupils are located on ground level. The homely feel of these spaces is created with fabric covered wall panels, curtains, carpeting and soft furniture. These also improve the acoustics of the spaces. Green walls, play areas and flexible spaces offer options for different kinds of learning situations. The facilities for older pupils, as well as the open learning area for natural sciences and mathematics are located on first floor and the facilities for humanities and languages on second floor above these.

The yard includes various different areas suitable for play, study and relaxation from sports fields to herb gardens, runoff collection and a small forested part. Outdoor lectures can be organized on the partially covered terrace on first floor level.

Exterior view, school yard
Exterior view, school yard
Site plan
Axonometric view second floor
Central court
Aerial view
First floor
Second floor
Third floor
Section A-A
Section B-B
Southeast elevation
Northeast elevation
Northwest elevation
Southwest elevation

NAME: Competition for a new school building for the Finnish-Russian School, proposal “Mesta”

TYPE: Invited competition, 2018, Honorable Mention

STATUS: Concluded

LOCATION: Helsinki, Finland

CLIENT: Senate Properties

PROGRAM: Primary, elementary and high school for around 700 pupils, 7,000 m² total

TEAM AT ALA: ALA partners Juho Grönholm, Antti Nousjoki and Samuli Woolston with Eva Geitel, Harri Humppi, Isabel Sánchez del Campo, Rachel Murray and Jack Prendergast

COLLABORATORS: Sitowise (engineering), Heikki Happonen (pedagogical expertise), VIZarch (visualizations)