Seinäjoki is one of the fastest growing cities in Finland. Currently the city has about 62 000 inhabitants, the urban area about 150 000, and the region about 200 000 inhabitants. A new Central Square will create a focal point of the public space of the growing city gathering a market place, a play area and a multifunctional pavilion with a café and a stage for performances in a central place in the city.
The City of Seinäjoki organized an invited competition for the design of the multifunctional pavilion earlier this spring. Three architecture offices were invited to participate: Avanto Architects, Architecture Office Laatio, and OOPEAA Office for Peripheral Architecture. The competition entries were evaluated with a special emphasis on the following criteria: the way in which the proposed design relates to the surrounding urban landscape, the architectural idea and the overall quality of the proposed concept, the functionality and efficiency of the proposed spatial arrangement and its amenability to work as a multifunctional space, the identity and character of the proposed design, and the practical feasibility of the proposed design. Kontra, the proposal by OOPEAA was selected as the winner of the competition.
Kontra, the proposal by OOPEAA aims to create a public space that supports the identity and functions of the new Seinäjoki Central Square offering a harmonious counterbalance to the lively market square with a range of varied of activities. The pavilion forms a key element in the overall image of the square. The flow of urban life in the square continues seamlessly inside the pavilion: you are on the square, but under the shelter of a roof, you are in public space, but in a clearly defined place.
The extended eaves of the pavilion offer protection from sun as well as rain allowing for a continuity between the outdoors and the indoors. The pavilion firmly takes its place in the public space of the square and gives it a sense of identity while the choice of its materials deliberately creates a connection with the local tradition and enters into a dialogue with the surrounding urban landscape. The use of copper as the material of the roof is a gesture recognizing the presence of the modern tradition of Alvar Aalto in Seinäjoki. It also offers longevity in the lifecycle sustainability of the pavilion. The use of wood in the ceiling creates a sense of warmth and connects the building with the local tradition of skilled carpentry. As a local material it is also sustainable. The use of glass in the walls of the pavilion allows for transparency and makes the activities inside the pavilion visible in the urban space of the square. The pavilion offers people a place in which they can be present in the city, a place in which to be seen and from which to observe the life in the city.
The shape of the pavilion gives it a strong and identifiable character. The folded lattice structure of the roof rises up towards the square forming a large canopy that gives the building a weightless appearance. The canopy provides shelter over the terrace of the pavilion and offers a great space for events. The stone surface of the square continues uninterrupted under the canopy creating a smooth transition between the public space of the square and the space of the pavilion.
The façade of the pavilion is of glass and wood. The glass walls create an impression of continuity of the public space of the square inside the pavilion. In the evening time the pavilion appears like a lantern radiating light in the urban space of the Central Square. The folded surfaces of the ceiling are clad with wood and they flow seamlessly from the exterior into the interior. The roof is clad with copper, and copper is also used as cladding for the walls in the parts where the walls are not of glass. The main structure is a hybrid of steel and wood, which makes it possible to optimize the number of pillars supporting the roof. The lattice structure of the roof joins the steel with the wood emphasizing the weightless appearance of the pavilion.
The functional organization of space in the pavilion is designed to align with the activities on the square. There is a café that opens to the square with a southern orientation. Next to the café there is a multifunctional space that can be joined with the café, and which also connects with a stage and terrace area under the canopy. An open kitchen is conveniently located so that it can easily serve both the café and the multifunctional space. The washrooms and social spaces for the staff have been realized as a combined unit in the northeastern corner of the pavilion allowing for a maximum capacity of adaptive use.