When you think about a typical school as a building and space, what are your first thoughts? Maybe white classroom walls, a chalkboard, arrayed desks and an overhead projector? Endless corridors rhythmed by doors, coat racks and a ragged bulletin board? These faded, institutional visions are understandable because the renaissance of learning environments is a reasonably new phenomenon. The Finnish architectural agency Sigge Architects has planned a large-scale school complex of the new generation in Turku, Finland. I talked with them about the Kupittaa Campus project – and perhaps the secret of Sigge got revealed.
Schools are not the same anymore, but they follow the changing world. The new thinking aims to build synergies across society and narrow the gap between school and working life. This is reflected plainly in the planning of Kupittaa Campus as well.
"The new central building of the campus is like a hub, which merges several education sectors, research and the business world. Its location in the Science Park of Turku, amongst students, companies and organizations, is crucial," describes Aino Koivunen, Architect and Director of Development at Sigge.
Vast and variable
The new campus building will be completed in 2020, and it has already reached its roof height. The primary user will be Turku University of Applied Sciences, and besides, several companies have previously announced to come along. The project generates 30.000 m2 of floor area, which makes it the biggest ongoing construction project in Turku, Finland's 6th largest city and the former capital until 1812. The significance of the project is emphasized by the steady growth of the whole Kupittaa area.
Despite its discreet shell, the new campus will contain even more versatile functionality: The street level consists of multisector laboratories, neighbored by a service point, a lounge and some transformable project spaces on the first floor. The lowest floors are connected by "Stairs of Knowledge," which also have a practical feature of acting as a grandstand for events. The interior, in its entirety, bases on flexibility and integration of operations. It's preparation for the future, too – so that the haunting visions of past school days won't return.
Demanding yet rewarding
Above all, designing an innovative learning environment requires listening to upcoming users – because it is built for them. Sigge Architects adopted the importance of interactive planning ages ago, but the case Kupittaa Campus has required particularly sensitive sensors from the very beginning.
"The group of stakeholders has been very vast. Nevertheless, the cooperation has been smooth, and many refreshing suggestions have arisen from all directions. And what's more, the bar has been set high: especially sustainability, environment and LEED requirements have gotten special attention," highlights Anna Nirkkonen, Architect, who has been responsible for the modeling of Kupittaa Campus.
BIM makes it possible
Sigge got the project from Turku Technology Premises as a continuum of long-lasting and productive collaboration. Sigge's strengths are advanced building information modeling (BIM) and teamwork, which were once chosen as tools for their strategic objectives. Thanks to this ideology, the Kupittaa Campus's stakeholders were able to work together for a common goal to avoid obstacles.
"The benefits of BIM show up to us daily, and most of all, BIM ensures the controllability of projects and high-class design. BIM is routines and culture for us – and not by any means for big projects only," says Jani Vahala, Architect and Partner of Sigge.
Sigge has chosen ARCHICAD as their BIM solution. Their efficient working methods lean on a functional template, which creates and maintains smoothed workflows.
Even the most elegant building information model as such won't become understandable to everyone unless its data is filtered and visualized as realistically as possible. Beside ARCHICAD, Sigge utilizes modern technologies, such as BIMx models on construction sites, and combination models and virtual reality for communicating with stakeholders. Thus, the involving parties have avidly participated in their projects, including Kupittaa Campus.
Sigge can easily be counted as one of the pioneers of BIM. They are active in various development schemes, like several KIRA-digi projects, which boost the digitalization of the building environment and construction sector. Sigge is also cooperating with the Building Information Group and buildingSMART and is busy with the improvement of maintenance models. The gathered information is tested and piloted in Sigge's real projects.
As a practical example, Sigge and M.A.D. took part in the recently finished ASU-digi project, which generated an ARCHICAD template for a more automated revision of building information models.
"Sigge and M.A.D. have co-worked in numerous forms, like creating new objects. Many of M.A.D.'s courses and seminars have been helpful. A local, easily approachable software specialist is a great benefit," notes Aino Koivunen.
The soul of Sigge
Few know that Sigge Architects was founded already in the 1950s. The long-lasting, victorious history has certainly accumulated Sigge's recognisability and customer base, but they have never lulled into the past. Sigge's persistent vigilance, dynamic working culture and development have kept them at the forefront. Nowadays, Sigge has a steady footing among the most prominent architectural offices in Finland.
A wide range of faithful clients also means an extensive work field. Speaking of Sigge, we dare not to discuss architecture alone. The big picture includes interiors, land use, renovations, and much more. Sigge's excellence has naturally provoked tasks in the fields of BIM coordination and management.
Moreover, Sigge's portfolio contains more extraordinary cases, such as floating houses around the globe, parametric architecture and sports arenas. Sigge eagerly attends both domestic and international architectural competitions, and success has followed.
During the last years, Sigge have been one of the fastest-growing Finnish architectural offices. The number of employees is over sixty and counting, and the premises have expanded. Sigge invests actively in the future – and tomorrow is built by motivated people.
"We want to invest in youngsters and experts, and clear, meaningful career paths for them. Our team is well-matched with minimum hierarchy. The main factor that motivates people, is succeeding in daily work – and that's what we are trying to support in every way," sums Juha Kuokkanen, Administrative Director of Sigge.