- Architects: ALT Architects + Architecture Office Karsikas
- Location: Peuranpolku 3, Kuhmo, Finland
- Lead Architects: Antti Karsikas, Martti Karsikas
- Design Team: Antti Karsikas, Martti Karsikas, Ville-Pekka Ikola, Tuomas Niemelä, Kalle Vahtera
- Area: 6165.0 m2
- Project Year: 2018
- Photographs: Ville-Pekka Ikola, Mikko Auerniitty
- Structural Engineer: Suunnittelu Laukka / Heikki Ainasoja
- Hvac: Sitowise / Mikko Mäkelä
- Electrical Engineer: Engineer office Varpiola / Sami Itkonen
- Acoustics: Helimäki Akustikot / Erno Huttunen
- Fire Consultant: Markku Kauriala
- Av Design: AV-Kolmio / Teemu Karsikas
- Construction Company: Rakennusliike Kuoma
- Head Of Construction: Mauri Pulkkinen
- Client's Coordinator: Markku Pääkkönen
Text description provided by the architects. Tuupala elementary school and daycare center is the first CLT school building in Finland. Right around the time the design process started, Finland’s first CLT factory was kicking off it’s production. The factory is located in Kuhmo, thus making CLT a natural choice for the school’s construction material.
The building is located between a large junior high school built in the 50’s, and a small-scale museum area with historical timber buildings. The new elementary school’s program is divided into three blocks of timber. With canopies and outdoor storage rooms the building connects different scales surrounding the building and creates small scaled, child-sized outdoor spaces.
Exterior architecture is amicable, straightforward and mundane – in a good sense of the word. Even though the basic quality of the architecture is modest, the aim was to create high-end architecture by means of detailing, materiality and coherent language of architecture throughout the building.
The most notable feature of the building is the load-bearing CLT-structure that reflects to the facade of the building as well: where there is CLT-panel, there is solid spruce siding on the facade. Naturally anodised sheets of aluminium and windows create the rythm of the composition filling the spaces between solid wood. Material palette is scanty, natural and honest both inside and out. Entrances are highlighted with colors.
The school is arranged in a village-like composition, and this theme continues in the interior architecture as well, although the expression of this idea is a bit different inside. The classrooms and other strictly divided spaces are located at the perimeter of the blocks, forming a ”public plaza” between them. Plazas, though deep inside the building mass, get natural light from the roof lights. The ambiance is almost sacral. This is a result of our design philosophy in school buildings: the frame of the education needs to be quiet so that the kids and the activities of the school have room to bring it alive, without the excessive visual chaos it tends to become.
Although divided into three parts, the building is not extravagant in terms of energy consumption. There are no actual corridors in the building – all the passages are functional, furnished spaces for informal studying.
The most exceptional functional feature of the building is the sports hall which transforms to a chamber music venue. Kuhmo is internationally famous for it’s Chamber Music Festival, and the sports hall was designed to serve as one of the venues. In terms of acoustics, these functions are somewhat contradictory: chamber music needs the echo, but when used for sports, there should be very little. The hall was designed acoustically to serve both. The concert acoustics was achieved by tilted ceiling and walls with sound reflection. For sports, the walls are covered by dampening textile blinds.
Wood is the main material of the building both in construction and visible surfaces, often being the same. All of the wood used in CLT and facade panels are cut from the rapidly renewing forests nearby, making the building truly local. The fine, solid spruce CLT surfaces are left untreated and visible. The gluelam beams of the floors are visible in the lobbies. The slanted surfaces of the high lobbies are made of perforated birch plywood, and other ceilings of natural wood wool panels. Most of the fixtures and furniture is made of wood as well.
Being a massive wood construction, the building removes over 2700 tons of carbon off the athmosphere, equivalent to driving a car for 21 million kilometers. Ecology, sustainability and locality were key ideas in designing Tuupala Elementary School.