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Helsinki Biennial Pavilion: Verstas Architects Crafts a Wooden Wave by the Sea

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Helsinki Biennial Pavilion

Like a wave that splashes on the harbour! Helsinki Biennial Pavilion, designed by Verstas Architects emotes a whirling wooden sea-wave at the South Harbour of Helsinki. The architects conceived the pavilion as an entry point to the Helsinki Biennial art festival on Vallisaari island. The Vallisaari ferry departs from a pier abutting the pavilion. The vision crafts an open-air urban living volume, where one can pause and enjoy the tranquil sea in the city’s heart.

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Helsinki Biennial Pavilion

A clean rectangular volume akin to the pavilion holds ticket sales, tourist information and ancillary spaces. People meet, greet and wait for the ferry at this point. Ecologically sustainable wood, a traditional boat building material, scores the facade of the pavilion. Eventually, the material stains a patina and also sustains the seasonal changes in the harsh northern climate.

Helsinki Biennial Pavilion

The rocks and ponds of Vallisaari island inspired the form of the Helsinki pavilion. A digital 3D building model guided the fabrication process of the pavilion. Executed in a carpenter’s workshop using prefabricated modules, then shipped by sea and crafted directly on site. The modules comprise glue-laminated timber frames and steel ties, clad with laminated veneer lumber and topped with fine sawn pine battens stained dark with a mix of tar and linseed oil.

Helsinki Biennial Pavilion
Helsinki Biennial Pavilion

The wooden interiors daubed with wood oil preserve the natural light shade of the material. Lighting intriguingly stacks into the slots flanked by the triangular frames. Oiled pine planks lay the deck and the round middle yard paved with greyed crosscut logs and white quartz sand. The Helsinki Biennial Pavilion on Vallisaari island adds to the city’s strategy to make the archipelago more accessible and inviting.

Helsinki Biennial Pavilion
Helsinki Biennial Pavilion

The pavilion provided an anchor point for the celebratory event in the city. Exposed as a “vessel” the structure strikes a mesmerising dialogue with the ships in the harbour and bonds with the history of the Market Square. The pavilion also incorporates the ability to dismantle after each event and have it shipped in pieces to Vallisaari for safe storage during the winter. A ship can easily move the prefabricated wooden elements. However, they realized the pavilion played a bigger role if left to stand in its place all year round.

Helsinki Biennial Pavilion

Now, the Helsinki pavilion provides a welcoming place for people to hang out by the sea. One can rest on the curvaceous slope, observing the colourful marketplace or seek shelter under the tent-like gables and ridges.

Project Details
Architects: Verstas Architects
Area: 187 m²
Photographs: Tuomas Uusheimo, Pyry Kantonen
Structural Engineer: Expecon Oy
Geotechnical Engineer: City of Helsinki / Urban Environment Division
Traffic Engineer: City of Helsinki / Urban Environment Division
Contractor: Helsinki City Construction Services Stara
Verstas Architects Partners: Väinö Nikkilä, Jussi Palva, Riina Palva, Ilkka Salminen
Leading Architect: Jussi Palva
Project Architect: Mikko Rossi
Team: Otto Autio, Pyry Kantonen
Interior Architect: Ulpu Kojo
HVAC Engineer: Stacon Oy, Stacon Oy
Fire Protection Engineer:Paloässät Oy, Paloässät Oy
City: Helsinki
Country: Finland

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