The Finnish-Russian School of Helsinki

The heart and meeting place of the Finnish-Russian school is a lounge-like area, which consists of a school canteen, stage and auditorium staircase. The school is located in Kaarela, Helsinki, and it was the people’s choice winner in the 2021 Wood Award competition.

Read the article in Finnish: Suomalais-venäläinen koulu

The school is a state-run general school that provides preschool, primary and secondary education for approximately 700 students. The Russian language and Russian culture are a prominent feature of the school, not only as a subject of study but also as a language of instruction and general communication.

The surroundings somewhat dictated the general design of the building and the layout of the school and its courtyard, which is why the building mass is in an L-shape that shields the courtyard from the noise and dust of the Hämeenlinnanväylä motorway. The most sensitive activities in the courtyard have been placed in a protected, low-noise area. The main entrance is also tucked inside a sheltered inner bend. On the adjacent site, a new sports facility built as a separate project adds another layer of insulation between the school and the surrounding thoroughfares.

Radially placed rows of trees bring structure to the courtyard, dividing it into different functional areas. Stairs have been carved into the terrain on the edge of the field to provide seating and a comfortable place for gathering.

The inner courtyard facades mostly have smooth planed, wood panel cladding that is glazed a natural shade of gray. Together with the diagonal shape of the windows, the three dimensional forms of the panel cladding give the facades a certain rhythm. A long eave protects the facade and courtyard. The back of the school building serves as a buffer for the noise emanating from that direction and is therefore more robust and has a simpler design language than the front. Staggered vertical panelling of varying dimensions forms graphic shapes on the facade.

The building mass is in an L-shape that shields the courtyard from the noise and dust of the Hämeenlinnanväylä motorway. Photo: Hannu Rytky

Technical solutions

The building foundation has a concrete footing and a ventilated hollow core slab. The building frame is wood. The outer walls are constructed from CLT elements, while the remainder of the frame uses a wooden post-and-beam system. Most partitioning walls are light in structure.

The intermediate floor is concrete, and the roof truss is wood. The roof’s high primary beams are CLT to maximise stability at different moisture levels. The glulam secondary beams have mostly been left visible, with the building technology stashed in between.

The building is in fire class P1 and has no sprinkler system. The facades are fire retardant treated to class B-s1 and the interior surfaces to class C-s2, d1.

The amount of carbon stored into the structures is equivalent to the yearly emissions from 280 cars. The carbon footprint comparison defined in the RTS environmental classification determined that the building’s carbon footprint is 21% lower than that of an average school building. The building’s air permeability rating is 0.6, and the solar panels on the roof reduce the carbon footprint during building use.


Architects AFKS – Architects Frondelius + Keppo + Salmenperä Oy’s business areas are building design, renovation, environmental construction, area planning and interior design. The office’s special expertise includes early childhood education and learning environments, service housing, development projects and wood construction. Over the past fifteen years, it has designed 18 public wooden buildings, nine of which are CLT-framed, including e.g. Lapinmäki daycare centre and Hopealaakso daycare centre.

A-Insinöörit has worked at the site as a construction consultant hired by the client. A-engineers have trained their entire construction organization in environmentally friendly and responsible construction to sparring clients and other partners on projects.

Project in brief

The Finnish-Russian School of Helsinki

  • Location | Helsinki
  • Purpose | Educational facility
  • Constructor/Client | Senate Properties
  • Valmistumisvuosi | 2021
  • Total area | 6 500 m2
  • Volume | 34 050 m3
  • Investointikustannukset | 28000000€
  • Architectural Design | AFKS Arkkitehdit Oy, Juha Salmenperä
  • Structural design | A-Insinöörit Suunnittelu Oy
  • Akustiikkasuunnittelu | A-Insinöörit Suunnittelu Oy
  • Palotekninen suunnittelu | Palotekninen insinööritoimisto Markku Kauriala Oy
  • LVIA-suunnittelu | Granlund Lahti Oy
  • Electrical design | Granlund Lahti Oy
  • Interior design | Haptik Oy
  • Muut suunnittelijat ja asiantuntijat | Construction consult: A-Insinöörit Rakennuttaminen Oy
    Expert in wood structures: Wood Expert Oy
  • Pääurakoitsija | SRV Rakennus Oy
  • Muut rakennusliikkeet | Supplier of CLT elements and installation of the frame: Puurakentajat Group Oy
  • Wood component supplier | Manufacturing of CLT elements: Stora Enso, Manufacturing of beams and posts: Versowood Oy
  • Photographs | Hannu Rytky
  • Text | AFKS Arkkitehdit Oy and Puuinfo Oy