AOR Architects build Tampere’s new landmark - an extension to the Art Museum

AOR is a Helsinki-based architectural company. One of its ten employees is Mikki Ristola, who presented the company and their projects during the release event of Archicad 23-FIN in Helsinki. The company started like many others: three friends, who had studied together, designed projects for competitions together.

In 2015 they won their first competition with the design of the Jätkäsaari primary school in Helsinki. After that, they were able to start their own company, rent an office, and hire their first employee. Right at the start, they decided to use Archicad for their work, because some of them had used it already before.

Architect Mikki Ristola is one of the AOR's partners and founders. Picture: AOR Architects

Jätkäsaari primary school was the first big project

Last autumn, four years after winning the Jätkäsaari school competition, the first students moved into the new school building.

"We have now finished the first big building, and have used information modeling with Archicad form start to finish. We have learned a lot during the project, and we are now developing a quality system for AOR according to what we have learned", Mikki Ristola describes his thoughts.

The Jätkäsaari primary school is one of the first schools that have been according to the new curriculum from 2016. The new study environment highlights the openness, looseness, flexibility, and comfort of spaces, as well as the cooperation between different disciplines.

Jätkäsaari primary school is a small urban school of 800 students and 8,000 square feet, which is rectangular. All of the school's facilities are organized around a high central hall. The natural light-filled central lobby serves as the heart of the school, making it easy for children to perceive the building and supporting the school's sense of community. Picture: Pyry Kantonen

"There are no corridors in the school. All rooms are connected by a central aula and learning launches that were limited from it and can be used as study areas as well", Mikki Ristola explains.

Wood buildings, public spaces and learning environments are their favorite projects

After the Jätkäsaari primary school, AOR specialized in the design of public spaces and learning environments. In 2018 they won a competition for the design of the Tuusula college and the Monio community center.

The Tuusula college and the Monio community center connect two of AOR Architects' objects of interest: school design and wood building. Picture: AOR Architects

"In the competition, we suggested Monio be a log house whose architecture refers to the historical buildings on the surrounding Hyrylä garrison area. The Monio building connects the Tuusula college and the other spaces to one community center, and gives everyone more and better spaces than they would have without charing them with others."

Winning suggestion for the extension of Tampere Art Museum

With their suggestion for the extension of the Tampere Art Museum, AOR Architects won the competition against 150 other suggestions in 2017. Tampere Art Museum has since 1930 been situated in a red brick building that has been designed as a granary by Carl Ludvig Engel in 1838.

The extension of the museum is meant to be partly financed by complementary building and town planning, as well as by selling building rights to the city. The challenge in area planning was to achieve a cityscape-balanced overall solution that fulfills the goals of additional construction while preserving some green spaces.

"One of the merits of our competition proposal, in addition to the expansion of the building, was the fact that we had planned additional constructions on this museum and the Amurinpuisto block. That was possible because of the compact size of the extension."

Historic look and modern times

The extension of the museum is built from red brick. That refers to the history of the old museum and Tampere's old industrial buildings and brick architecture.

The architects wanted to make the museum a sculpture-like object that forms a stable landmark for the Art Museum. The facades of the first and the third floor are entirely made from glass. That makes the museum become a part of the city and the city a part of the museum.

To preserve the park-like character of the surrounding area, the museum extension was designed to be as compact as possible in a tower-like mass solution. Picture: AOR Arkkitehdit

"The massing of the building refers directly to the old museum building design by Engel with its roof shapes. Additionally, its footprint is nearly the same size as the old museum building. The top of the new building replicates the old one nearly one by one as well. When we prepared our competition proposal, we thought about how much we should refer to the old museum building because these direct architectural references are a quite difficult discipline. In my opinion, we have, after all, found an appropriate balance by making this new building quite abstract and creating a building that is interesting because of its geometry and its volume."

The extension is built around a concrete central shaft

The on earth part of the extension is built in its entirety around a concrete shaft that contains the stairs and lifts of the building. The aula of the museum, the museum shop, the ticket sale, and the café are situated in the entirely glass-walled ground level. The terrace of the café opens to the west, to the Amurinpuisto park.

"The rotation of the exhibitions at the new building starts at the ticket sale. After buying a ticket, the visitor goes to the coat racks in the basements and takes the lift into the top exhibition floor. From up there, the visitor can go down the stairs one floor after another until he arrives back in the basement, from where he can go to the exhibitions of the old part of the museum through an underground connection", Mikki describes.

There is an underground connection to the basement premises of the old museum from the basement floor of the new building. It functions both for maintenance and for the public. The high restaurant spaces serve as a lobby for the multipurpose hall or auditorium that is situated between the new and the old part. Picture: AOR Arkkitehdit

The two floors high restaurant in the basement gets natural light through the big glass wall of the ground floor. All working areas and social rooms of the museum and the personnel is situated on the second floor. The third floor is an open exhibition space that opens up to the urban environment to all sides through the glass walls. It is possible to set up more walls and to shade the glass walls when needed.

The third floor of the extension is one open exhibition space that opens up to the urban environment to all sides through the glass walls. Picture: AOR Architects

"Right from the start of the competition, the museum wanted to keep hold of the entirely open exhibition space on the third floor, because it enhances interaction with the surrounding city and makes it possible to arrange exhibitions that differ from the other exhibition spaces. Additionally, this space can also be used to organize other events."

The opposite of the open third floor is the fourth floor, where nine smaller walk-through gallery spaces surround the central shaft. In this, the museum gets many more traditional, smaller exhibition spaces, whose lighting can be set as precisely as possible. The dividing walls of this floor have a constructional function because they work as jetties of the central shaft. That makes it possible to build the entirely open third floor without any additional load-bearing constructions.

A scale model of the extension of the Tampere Art Museum. Physical models are an excellent tool to plan your work, and they can also be used to present the project live or with the help of photographs of the scale model. A large scale model is also a great communication tool in the user's direction. Picture: Aleksi Poutanen

The top fifth floor is like the third floor, a bigger uninterrupted exhibition space that rises higher than the other exhibition spaces up to the roof. The central shaft does not rise until the top, but the exhibition space gets toplight through the skylight window in the middle. Under the skylight window and on top of the central shaft, there is a small exhibition balcony filled with light. This space is connected to the stairs and one of the lifts situated in the central shaft.

The central shaft of the extension of the Tampere Art Museum does not rise all the way up on the top floor, but the exhibition space gets uplight from the central skylight window. Picture: AOR Arkkitehdit

Currently, further design of the building and the zoning process in the vicinity of Pyynikintori are underway. The property of the museum will be planned along with the rest of the area. That slows the progress of the museum project down a little bit. The museum extension is scheduled for completion in 2026.

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About Eeva Vierros

Eeva Vierros is a Digital Marketing Designer at M.A.D. She has a background in Communications and Photography and a Master of Arts degree in Photography from the Aalto University of Industrial Arts. She has an eye for fine photos and pictures and she can easily find new perspectives on things. She is enthusiastic about photography, photojournalism, art, news and technology.
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