Kaarna and Nila in Kuopio

Kuopio’s Kaarna and Nila project consists of two seven-storey, single-stairwell residential towers, a bicycle shelter designed to blend into the terrain, and a communal sauna by the shore.

Read the article in Finnish: Kuopion Kaarna ja Nila

Set in a lakeside landscape between the historical surroundings of the old Julkula parsonage and a hospital, the towers pay homage to the area’s special atmosphere. For example, the facade colours and window proportions have been selected to complement the neighbouring parsonage, which is a protected historical building.

Single-family homes, terraced houses and other low-rise buildings otherwise dominate the area. Kaarna and Nila are the area’s first high-rises and will therefore stand out on the shoreline, so their appearance was given plenty of thought. The placement of the two residential buildings on the plot allows residents to enjoy as much of the magnificent Lake Kallavesi scenery as possible and avoids obstructing the views of neighbours. The window sizes been optimised to avoid the need for separate cooling, but the landscape appears to flow into the apartments through the tall window openings. To enhance the view from inside, top-notch wooden surfaces were negotiated with the builder during the product development process: thick mouldings frame the windows and the CLT ceiling has a glossy white coating.

Slats have been used in the interior spaces to provide more options for interior designs and furniture arrangements. There are strict fire regulations for this kind of wooden high-rise. The fire class is P2 according to standard dimensioning tables, which limits the use of wooden surfaces in common areas. The steps in the stairwell are CLT attached directly to the walls.

Wood was used more liberally in the interiors of the lakefront sauna to give the communal facility the feel of a true beachfront experience. The darker tones of the interior surfaces add cosiness, and visitors can take in the lake’s wonderful scenery on the covered terrace that surrounds the pillar-based, light-structured sauna building on all sides. Wooden grilles and the lightweight roof provide privacy. Slim slats add a delicate feel to the otherwise quite large bike shed. A special effort was made to meld the shed into the slope to give it a smaller appearance.

Running northeast and southwest on the facades, the zigzagging cantilever balconies of the one-bedroom units catch the eye, as do the retracted balconies of the two-bedroom units and the French balconies of the studios running in the opposite direction. The window frames are low-key. Due to the fire treatment, the colour of the facade paint changes subtly from one side of the building to the other. This difference has been disguised with a different panel type on the ground floor and balconies.

Technical solutions

The building has a ventilated subfloor. Accessibility issues caused by the high plinth were resolved with a sloping wooden bridge at the entrance. For moisture drainage, the supporting walls are recessed in the uncovered parts.

To retain the weightless appearance of the balconies, their support structures are tucked away in the wall and intermediate floor structures. The seams between volumetric elements are hidden behind the facade panelling installed on site.

Construction project

Plans for As Oy Kuopio Kaarna and Nila were laid out in spring 2020. Municipal planning for the City of Kuopio had allocated a terraced apartment building to the plot between the Julkula hospital and the historical parsonage, about six kilometres from the centre. The city had already granted the plot to Lakea Oy in 2013, but the challenging terrace design requirement kept the project from moving forward. Together with Arkkitehtoimisto Kanttia2 Oy, Lakea applied for an exception to the municipal plans in 2020 and signed a turnkey contract for the project with JVR.

Kaarna’s on-site construction began in December 2020. Element installations began with the plinths in April 2021, and the first volumetric elements were installed in May 2021. The short construction time in relation to concrete apartment buildings resulted in considerable cost savings. Kaarna’s on-site construction took about 9 months. Construction time could actually have been even shorter, but timber availability was a bottleneck during the Kaarna project. Kaarna was completed in September 2021 and Nila in September 2022.


Anu Säilynoja, “As an architect, I mostly strive to improve people’s lives and to also allow future generations to have the same, or better, opportunities. It takes strength, creativity, and a bold vision to head towards an ambitious goal, but the steps need to be small and realistic. Authenticity and my ability to interact with people and ask the right questions are my strengths as a designer. Behind every design project is a core vision, which needs to serve as a bright, shining light that guides everyone from the very start of the project. When everyone in the project pulls together and trusts each other, the sky is the limit for what we can accomplish.”

Project in brief


  • Location | Kuopio
  • Purpose | Residential apartment building
  • Constructor/Client | Lakea Oy
  • Valmistumisvuosi | 2021
  • Floor area | 2 500 m2
  • Volume | 18 132 m3
  • Investointikustannukset | 7 380 000 € (ARA loan decision)
  • Architectural Design | Kanttia2 Oy
  • Structural design | Rakennuskonsultointi T Kekki Oy
  • Palotekninen suunnittelu | Paloturvasuunnittelu Block Oy
  • LVIA-suunnittelu | LVI-Insinööritoimisto Koski-Konsultit Oy
  • Sprinklerisuunnittelu | Paloff Sammutusjärjestelmät Oy
  • Electrical design | Elexent Oy
  • Pääurakoitsija | JVR-Rakenne Oy
  • Wood component supplier | ProModules Oy (Nykyisin JVR-Rakenne Oy)
  • Photographs | Timo Villanen, Kanttia2 Oy
  • Text | Anu Säilynoja, Kanttia2 Oy ja Niko Herranen, Lakea Oy