The proposal by OOPEAA and Töölö Urban wins the competition for a Cultural River Float on the river Aura in Turku, Finland

The proposal by OOPEAA and Töölö Urban, Kaarna, wins the design and build competition for a Cultural River Float, a floating structure to provide a place of cultural activity on the river Aura in a central location in Turku, Finland. The competition was organized by the City of Turku with the aim of activating the river landscape and the area in front of the Wäinö Aaltonen Museum, an important art museum and a focal place of culture in the city. The competition set out to seek a floating structure that would offer a place for cultural activity all year round with a convincing business concept and high architectural quality. OOPEAA is responsible for the architectural design while the business concept is developed by Töölö Urban.

With spruce and larch as its main materials, and the wide, amphitheater like wooden stairs that offer a place for gathering and hanging out, Kaarna has a strong identity with a special character of its own. It proudly takes its place in the historically significant cultural landscape by the river bridging together the prominent cultural buildings and the greenery of the riverside park. The multifaceted roof links the structure with the surrounding modernist buildings with its bold, contemporary expression. The green creepers growing along the walls, in turn, connect with the greenery in the park. The carefully designed lighting beautifully lifts the floating structure in the river in the evening hours inviting visitors to come in. The generous roof terraces afford great views over the river and the shore activating the river as a central element in the city in a new way.

Kaarna will provide a place of activity and gathering for people of all ages throughout the year making the river a living part of the city. The spaces are divided into three functionally differentiated zones. In one end of the 120 meters long and 20 meters wide structure there will be a sauna and a conference space complemented in the other end by a restaurant and a café with ample outdoor space and semi-warm terraces, as well as flexibly adjustable spaces for a range of different kinds of activities. There will also be three pools for swimming outdoors all year round, one of them for children, one 25-meter pool with heated water, and one pool with river water.

In the middle part of the building wide wooden stairs rise on three sides facing the river. Serving as a place for meeting and hanging out with a view over the river, the stairs form a strong visual and functional focal point for the building. The children’s pool in the middle transforms into a stage and the stairs function as an auditorium. In case of larger concert events, it is also possible to use a separate floating stage that can be brought in through waterways for special occasions. The area otherwise used as a stage can then be used for extending the seating capacity.

Together, all the different spaces in the structure form a multifunctional whole in which the different kinds of activities each have their own clearly dedicated zone. The pools introduce water as an element into the building making it a central part of its activity. While the floating building is a place of social gathering and of enjoying the scenery, it is also a place of sports as well as a place of sauna and relaxation. It provides a platform for multiple activities from yoga classes to concerts and film screenings, from small private events into public events for large audiences.

OOPEAA and Töölö Urban won also the second prize in the competition with their proposal Kiila, which is based on the same functional principles as their winning proposal Kaarna, but is smaller in scale. The proposals by OOPEAA and Töölö Urban were praised for best responding to the goals set for the Cultural River Float competition to activate the city’s relationship to the river and to offer a platform for activity for people of all ages throughout the year.

For more information on the Cultural River Float project in Turku in Finnish, see HERE.

For a press release by the City of Turku in Finnish, see HERE.