For OOPEAA the notion of the peripheral is an important starting point for creating architecture. It emphasizes the fact that what one sees as the center or as the periphery is always relative to ones own position, and that there is always a distance between the two. We strive for an architecture that finds its inspiration in the state of being in between, between urban and rural, but always in relationship to both; between a deep respect for tradition and an appreciation of the contemporary; rooted in the local and yet part of a larger international context.
We understand the notion of periphery to mean a space of possibility on the borderline between two different worlds. It is about a perspective and about an approach. It is about a space and a moment of transition, of having been something and of being about to become something more. It implies a sense of looking at things from an outside position while embracing the knowledge and understanding offered by an insider. Therefore, for OOPEAA, the peripheral is not about a geographical position but rather about an attitude that combines experience with a sense of openness and curiosity towards experimentation.
For us at OOPEAA the goal in architecture is to create better life. Regardless of scale or context, architecture is always about creating spaces for people and for life. We want to create architecture that is close to people, and also in dialogue with its context. In our work at OOPEAA, a sense of care, an attitude of curiosity and an understanding of the context are key guiding principles. For us at OOPEAA care means taking responsibility for creating a sustainable foundation for a good life. Curiosity is about being open to new ways of seeing and learning while allowing knowledge from the past to serve as a foundation for creating something new. Context, be it social, cultural, economic or the site itself, is the place where the roots of the past meet the potential of the future growth and development.
Collaboration and the process of sharing information and knowledge through a dialogue between different parties involved in a building project are at the core of the practice of OOPEAA. For us, architecture is about communication and collaboration, from the very beginning of the process all the way to the final completed building. It is about learning from past experience and about building for the future. Collaboration that fosters mutual exchange of knowledge with professionals in different fields of building and construction is an essential part of the process of creating successful architecture. We have had the great opportunity to learn the appropriate methods of working with wood from the masters of craftsmanship and enjoyed the seamless cooperation with the most skillful of structural engineers.
In our work at OOPEAA we often connect innovative ideas with traditional materials. A feeling for material and an interest in optimizing the use of it, both in the process of production and construction as well as in the design of the building, is important to us. A desire to find solutions that take advantage of the natural qualities of the material chosen while also optimizing the process of building and construction has informed our work from the earliest projects on.
In its approach to architecture OOPEAA combines new ideas with experience and a sense of respect for tradition and locality. Our objective is to create architecture and milieus that are functional, technically and ecologically sustainable, of aesthetically high quality, and committed to the location. A willingness to courageously explore new ways of doing things and solving challenges is at the core of achieving sustainability. While appreciating the value of the past, we need to be open for new ways of seeing things.
For us, sustainability is at once about a social and cultural aspect as well as about an ecological aspect. We believe that sustainability must be approached holistically as a social, cultural, ecological as well as economical phenomenon. All of these qualities together contribute to the sustainability of a building over its entire life cycle. For us at OOPEAA the most important goal is to strive towards finding solutions that will provide a good quality of life for people be it in an urban or in a rural context.
OOPEAA Range of Work
The portfolio of OOPEAA covers a wide range of projects of varying scales from churches and public buildings, to housing, office buildings and private houses to town planning and urban visions for future development. We have also had the opportunity to do some quite demanding renovations and extensions to historically valuable landmarked buildings. There is a strong emphasis on the development of sustainable solutions on all scales, from individual buildings of to blocks of affordable housing and entire neighborhoods all the way up to the scale of visions for cities.
From Public Buildings to Affordable Housing
The Kärsämäki Shingle Church, completed in 2004, was the international breakthrough of the office. Since then OOPEAA has realized three more churches or chapels and we are now working on our fifth church project, the New Tikkurila Church. In addition to public buildings, housing, and affordable housing in particular, has also been near to our heart. We have been able to design several housing blocks which have given us a chance to test and develop innovative approaches, as for example in the case of Puukuokka, completed in three stages between 2015 and 2018, an apartment block of three buildings with a fully wooden structure and a system of volumetric modular units made of CLT, and the Risuviita Housing which combines affordable housing with apartments tailored to meet the special needs of people with autism specter. In the Pihapetäjä Housing in Joensuu, completed in 2017, we were able to apply the method that was developed for the Puukuokka Block. Currently, we have also several new projects on the drawing board in which CLT is the chosen material, for example the Puukivistö Housing Block in Vantaa, and the new area of wooden housing in Porvoo. Recently we have also designed daycare centers and school buildings, like the Taika Kindergarten, completed in 2017.
From Sculptural Installations as a Means of Experimentation to Urban Visions
We have also been invited to create several installations and small-scale structures of a more sculptural nature, such as, for example, the Periscope Tower, which is part of the urban plan that we created for the Pruukinranta Area and the Housing Fair in Seinäjoki in 2015 with a plan including the development of the surrounding area around the man made lake Kyrösjärvi as a new ecologically and socially sustainable neighborhood in the fast growing city of Seinäjoki, Finland. Our work on town planning includes both examples of creating the plan for expanding and densifying existing historical city centers, such as the plan for the development of the center of Rauma, a city with a center included on the Unesco list of Cultural Heritage Sites, as well as the development of entirely new areas such as the Suuruspää neighborhood in Jyväskylä currently under design and planning.
On a larger urban and regional scale, we at OOPEAA are interested in developing projects that approach urban design with an emphasis on creating socially and culturally sustainable communities through a well balanced network of urban social spaces that offer the various members of the community a rich array of opportunities to come together in the shared spaces of the city. These values are reflected in our work on many levels, for example in the way in which we approach housing or the task of providing multifunctional spaces that are welcoming and accessible to all as exemplified in the freshly completed Seinäjoki Vision published in November 2019.
Working with Wood and Exploring the Potential of Modularity
The building industry is responsible for about 40% of emissions and harmful impact on the environment. That is more than the share of any other sector of activity. That is why we as architects have a big responsibility in taking seriously the potential that we have in influencing decisions regarding material and structural choices related to the buildings design. The materials we use for building and how we use them make a big difference to sustainability. As a natural, locally available, renewable and recyclable material wood has a great potential in our effort to find ways of reducing the burden on the environment.
Working with wood and mass timber to explore its potential for developing ecologically and socially sustainable solutions to the contemporary needs of urban housing and public buildings is a key focus in the work of the office. We are also interested in developing new systems of flexibly customizable modularity. The Puukuokka Block by OOPEAA is an illustration of the potential of a system of volumetric modules made of CLT in creating multi-story apartment buildings with a fully wooden frame and structure. The Global Concept for the Allas Sea Pool Family developed by OOPEAA is an example of the applying the modular principle in a scalable concept with the capacity for flexible adaptation for sites in different parts of the world.
There is an active focus on research and development at OOPEAA. We are interested in exploring the potential of finding optimal solutions that support both the social and ecological aspects of sustainability while simultaneously being economically efficient in a long-term perspective. In recent years, our interest in finding ways to optimize the use of material and create solutions that are architectonically and technically sustainable has led to our involvement in research projects with a focus on sustainability. Most recently, we have initiated a research and development project for a web based evaluation tool to assess the impact of the material and structural choices on the ecological sustainability of a building project that could be used already in the early stages of concept design in order to help to guide the design process. The working name for the tool is Life Cycle Visualizer. There is also an ongoing focus on exploring the potential of modularity and the application of mass timber as a sustainable solution to the needs of urban housing and public buildings.