The green heart

Radical proposal for the University Campus Aalto 2015 Otaniemi / Finland / 2012

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The creative process and the morphogenesis of the project. The creative process to design the Central Campus for Aalto University began with a deep study and analysis of the local site conditions and of global precedents of predominant University Campus design. From the initial sketches we have been strongly convinced of the need of a bold urban gesture, to create: a new centrality in the campus, a new hierarchy of spaces and places, an harmonic dialogue of the new intervention with the existing organisation, a more pedestrian friendly and sustainable environment. After several iterations and options, it was clear the need to design using fluid forms in order to distinguish the new artefacts from the rectilinear language of the existing buildings. We felt the need of a new smooth space to enhance the existing striated ones, the need to use contemporary topological geometries and space versus traditional Euclidian’s one. Then it came to mind the famous Savoy vase designed by Alvar Aalto and produced by Iittala in several glass versions. Almost as game we tried to play with that form, literally overlapping it on the site. We rotated it, scaled it, pushed and pulled the boundaries to adapt it to the existing figure‐ground condition and to generate three atriums that converge into a unique outdoor central place. With a grand gesture we lifted three sides of the building to generate three dramatic arches to connect the centrally embraced public space to the existing and proposed pedestrian networks of the campus. Most importantly the western side of the building lifts to create a striking framed view of Aalto’s distinctive Auditorium from the University’s main pedestrian axis. Meanwhile, the building’s eastern elevation is reduced in front of Aalto’s main building, respectfully bowing to the University’s important historic landmark. A new figure ground, a new centrality, a new hierarchy of spaces in the campus. The new figure ground proposed defines a new centrality, a permeable loop with three very generous gateways capable of absorbing and reorienting the pedestrian flow of the contextual surroundings. The proposed organisation of the transport system allow for a university “quad”, a “Green Heart”, completely car free. The users can arrive here from the two adjacent subway stations, from the bus stops, from the underground parking or simply by walking or cycling along the three proposed boulevards in the direction of the three proposed grand gateways. The “Green Heart”, designed for all types of users, is accessible in 5 minutes walking from the most important buildings of the Campus. In its most central area, it is designed to be a flexible space that can accommodate varying seasonal activities and events such as summer jet fountains and winter ice skating. Yet, in its periphery, the university “quad” offers three distinct sub‐spaces with varied microclimates. These spaces are varied in scale and design to allow different informal gatherings, from a meditation retreat to an amphitheatre for special events. Each sub space is integrated with functional landscape systems that infiltrate and clean rainwater before slowly releasing it into the Laajalahti Nature Preserve. The particular form of the “Green Heart” provides clear and not residual external outdoor spaces adjacent to the surrounding buildings. These result in a large “piazza” between the new intervention and the Main Building of the Campus activated with several commercial activities and restaurants, as well as distinct outdoor spaces adjacent to the School of Science’s Nano Buildings to the North and to the VTT complex toward the South. A fluid and permeable architecture that embrace outdoor public spaces. The different areas required by the program are organized within a single building embracing a public outdoor area accessible 24 hours to all: students, faculty members and simple citizens. As an organizational system the interior spaces can function as one building or as eight attached and highly interconnected ones: 1. The new Metro (at ground floor, South side); 2. The commercial area and the main restaurants (at ground floor); 3. The department of the Dean (1st, 2nd levels, North‐East side); 4. The department of Art (1st, 2nd, 3rd levels, East side); 5. The department of Design (1st, 2nd, 3rd levels, South side); 6. The department of Architecture and Landscape (1st, 2nd, 3rd levels, South‐West side); 7. The department of Media (1st, 2nd levels, North side); 8. The department of Media Centre Lume (3rd levels, North side); Each department is design as self sufficient, with independent flight of stairs, elevators, fire stairs at appropriate distance, technical shafts, technical spaces underground, toilettes etc. Both the entrances under the arches of the three grand gateways and the entrances placed in the three central atriums can be used by the users of the commercial area/restaurants and by the user of the programs above. This very particular system of entrances, if needed, can adapt to respond to more selective organisation of flow, i.e. more or less department oriented, more or less private/public, more or less 24 hour accessibility etc. The idea of organising the different departments into one building was driven by the aim of allowing maximum interaction between programs thanks to shared/interconnected spaces, proximities, adjacencies or simply visual connections. Thanks to the university “quad”, the Green Heart, every department is visually linked to all the others. Thanks also to a clear system of corridors, atriums, double and triple height spaces and strategically located vertical connections it is possible to easily reach any interior part of the building from anywhere without the need to exit outside. The ground level is designed with a generous glazed corridor along the internal skin, which can conveniently be used also as a covered public passage during periods of inclement weather. On the first and second levels the corridor runs in the middle, as a traditional double loaded corridor, with smaller rooms/studios towards the internal side and large classrooms/laboratories towards the external one. On the third floor the corridor follows along the internal glazed facade to define large classrooms and laboratories facing the external facade. The spaces above the arches are designed as oblique auditoriums with a dramatic view into the internal grand courtyard and will be shared as lecture halls or study lounges by the different departments. This organizational system of entrances, corridors, vertical relationships and a great variety of spaces, of varying layouts, orientation and sizes, allows for ultimate flexibility in programmatic uses in order to respond and adapt to unpredictable future needs.
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    The creative process and the morphogenesis of the project. The creative process to design the Central Campus for Aalto University began with a deep study and analysis of the local site conditions and of global precedents of predominant University Campus design. From the initial sketches we have been strongly convinced of the need of a bold urban gesture, to create: a new centrality in the campus, a new hierarchy of spaces and places, an harmonic dialogue of the new intervention with the...

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