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Competition for Konsthall Tornedalen, a Space for Art

The valley of the Torniojoki River draws the border between Finland and Sweden. In the village of Vitsaniemi, on the Swedish bank, Konsthall Tornedalen, a space for making and exhibiting art and a place for people to gather and come together, will be soon built.

The proposal by OOPEAA was selected out of a total of five entries by offices from Finland, Japan, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland in an invited competition.

The site is located in a breathtakingly beautiful place on the Torniojoki riverbank with a view to the arctic hills and the wilderness of Lapland. There vegetation is sparse and the buildings are small and far apart from each other. The challenge was to find the right scale for a building to fit in the delicate nature of the landscape. The concept is based on a rhythmic composition of a series of relatively small buildings with a pitched roof. Together they form a grouping of simple, familiar shapes characteristic of the region. The different functions of the art centre are housed in the individual buildings that together form a flexible entity. This approach also makes it possible to construct the complex in stages.

The project is currently in the planning stage. The goal is to identify sources of local knowledge that may be harnessed as a resource in the building process, both in the form of the local building industry and in terms of local skills in handicrafts. The objective is to activate the people of the Tornedalen region and to allow them to feel a sense of ownership of the project. The intention is to engage the local community in the process of building the centre and to encourage the transfer of knowledge and skills in the local tradition of handicrafts from the old masters to the younger generations. While inviting people to work together in order to create something very tangible for their own community, this process also makes it possible to update the traditional handicraft skills and gives them relevance in the contemporary moment.

The building is identifiable as an interesting shape already when seen from afar. When one approaches it and gets closer, tones, shadows and details start to emerge. Wood is present as a material in all interior spaces making the atmosphere is warm and cozy. The facades and the roofs are made of larch. The basic structure is a stepped one. The facade is composed of painted wood planks and the actual exterior surface is protected with scantling set about 30 centimeters away from the facade. This solution makes it possible to give the building an abstract shape and to hide the roof’s drainage system in between the floors. All materials used are biodegradable or recyclable.

Vitsaniemi, Övertorneå, Sweden


1,500 m²

International invited competition, 1st prize

2012 (competition)

Anssi Lassila, Teemu Hirvilammi, Hanna Heikkilä (assistant)

Anssi Lassila

Teemu Hirvilammi, Mia Salonen, Kazunori Yamaguchi, Tommi Heinonen