The new Kauppis-Heikki school in Iisalmi, in the Peltosalmi residential area just outside the city centre, replaced a 1960s red brick school that had been afflicted with indoor air problems.
The school lies in a suburb built in the 1960s and 70s, with lush vegetation and red brick buildings with low-pitched roofs. The previous school building was a good match with its surroundings, only barely drawing attention to itself despite its more public role.
The City of Iisalmi expressed a desire to have the new school built from solid timber because of its health and ecological characteristics. The idea was for the school to be a healthy building in itself and a healthy environment for the people using it. One might think that an area with low red brick buildings would not be a particularly natural fit for a structure made from timber, so our plan was to create architecture that would enable this completely different type of new building to match its environment.
We wanted to avoid the stereotypes of traditional timber construction and instead looked to create something very modern in design. There was no desire to hide the intrinsic roughness of timber buildings however, so we left the log corners and supporting beams and bolts in plain sight throughout the school. The feel of the material is highlighted with massive oblique wood columns and beams.
The exterior architecture of the building emphasizes clarity and horizontal lines to enhance the public building’s role as the area’s dominant structure. This was achieved organically through the careful placement of the school’s gymnasium and other high structures. The higher sections of the building were also a natural choice for the installation of solar panels. The seemingly horizontal line of the low-pitched roof has been punctuated with free-form angularity here and there. The angularity also continues in the awnings and in the ceiling of the main foyer, which follows the angles of the roof.
Functionally, the school is built around a canteen, a stage and a well-lit foyer that connects the classroom wings to each other. These spaces can be joined together in a variety of ways by folding and unfolding the partitioning walls. Large glass walls add brightness and transparency to the interior.
The teaching facilities are split up into two units, with a separate wing for the arts that even has its own entrance on the north side of the building. Both units have a spacious foyer with plenty of room for arranging different types of learning and play. The foyers and the classrooms can be joined together as needed by folding up the partitioning walls. In the interior design, the foyers and units have each been given their own distinctive colours to make the layout easier to grasp. In the unit for the youngest children from kindergarten to year three, the foyer has a playful feel with fairy tale walls where children can study or play hide-and-seek.
A small inner courtyard between the units leads to the recess areas and serves as a place to hang out. The previous school building already had plenty of recess and playground space, which has now been complemented by new structures and areas that provide protection and a more child-friendly scale. The recess area is covered by a canopy that extends from the eaves at the ends of the two units. The canopy is supported by massive wooden structures, including a wall covered with warm-coloured cladding that swerves out at the bottom to create a bench. The idea was to use structural design to make the recess area interesting and pleasant.
Project in brief
- Location | Iisalmi
- Purpose | School
- Constructor/Client | City of Iisalmi
- Valmistumisvuosi | 2017
- Floor area | 1 973 m2
- Total area | 2 125 m2
- Volume | 9 197 m3
- Architectural Design | Rainer Qvick / QVIM Arkkitehdit Oy
- Structural design | Sweco Rakennetekniikka Oy
- LVIA-suunnittelu | LVI-Planor Oy
- Electrical design | Insinööritoimisto Tauno Nissinen Oy
- Pääurakoitsija | KVR-urakoitsija: Rakennusliike Kuoma Oy
- Wood component supplier | Honkakartano Oy
- Photographs | Mikko Auerniitty
- Text | Petteri Hiltunen