Tuupala primary school and day-care centre

The large mass has been divided into three blocks. The multi-purpose, small-scale outdoor spaces are bordered by a cluster of new structures and playground shelters with storage spaces.

The new school building is located in the middle of a block with a road running along its north side, on the site of a demolished secondary school. A large and sunny playground fills the south side. The size of the building serves as a convenient tie-in between the robust 1950’s school campus to the southeast and the small-scale local history museum to the northwest. The large mass has been divided into three blocks. The multi-purpose, small-scale outdoor spaces are bordered by a cluster of new structures and playground shelters with storage spaces.

The building’s external architecture is conciliatory, uncomplicated and in a strangely attractive way very ”normal”. Our starting point was to have a modest feel, with architecture that would feel higher class thanks to the coherence in the details, interior and exterior design and the building as a whole. In other words, the goal was to have the entire building speak one design language on all levels.

The project’s most significant individual characteristic is its load-bearing spruce CLT structure. The structure is directly reflected in the facade: where there is a CLT panel structure, there is solid spruce cladding. The wood has been treated with a colourless protective treatment, and the facades will gradually turn grey at their natural pace. The outer framework of the windows and the attached sills are anodised aluminum in its natural colour. The material palette is sparse, natural and honest, both inside and out.

The architecture of the panels continues inside. Wood in all its forms is visible everywhere. The fine surface of the CLT panelling has been left in plain sight. The horizontal structures are laminated wood, and they are also visible where sensible. Birch plywood surfaces are abundant in the building’s lighter structures, and wood-magnesite panels are used in the ceilings, and solid birch and spruce in the fixtures.

The intermediate floors were the building’s most challenging individual structural component. The construction industry has already produced clever solutions for intermediate floor structures of wooden apartment buildings, for example, but no cost-effective and sensible products are available as of yet for the long spans for public buildings. This would be an excellent product development opportunity for the industry.

Several preliminary drafts were made for the Tuupala school. The working name of the version chosen was “Kylä” (Village). The layout of the buildings on the site follows the pattern of a village, and the village feel continues on the interior. The actual classroom spaces are gathered around a central foyer that serves as the village’s “town hall square”. The building mass is quite deep, which makes the structure effective, but the foyer in the centre has been kept airy and light. The foyer features a high ceiling with skylights, providing natural light and giving an almost pious atmosphere. This was the idea: the building itself is quiet and peaceful, the energy and colour come with use.

The new curriculum highlights phenomenon-based learning and different learning methods and situations. Kuhmo chose not to take the curriculum to the extreme with an open office-style interpretation. Instead, the approach is more restrained. The building still fulfils all the goals of the curriculum: classes can be combined into larger spaces with movable walls, and small learning spaces are also scattered here and there. There are simply no ineffective corridors in the building, as even the foyer is dimensioned to be a collection of functional spaces.

The most exceptional functional aspects of the building are found in its multipurpose hall. The hall serves both as a gymnasium and as a concert hall for the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival. These purposes are particularly contradictory from the viewpoint of the room’s acoustics: there should not be any echo when used for exercise, but a resonant, ample sound is desirable for a chamber music performance. The concert acoustics were created by styling the interior ceiling and walls with plywood reflectors. When the room is used for exercise, these reflectors are covered with acoustic drapes.

Project in brief

Tuupala primary school and daycare centre

  • Location | Kuhmo
  • Purpose | School and daycare centre
  • Constructor/Client | Kuhmo municipality
  • Valmistumisvuosi | 2018
  • Floor area | 5 410 m2
  • Total area | 6 165 m2
  • Volume | 32 400 m3
  • Investointikustannukset | 11 900 000€
  • Architectural Design | alt Arkkitehdit Oy and Arkkitehtitoimisto Karsikas Oy
  • Structural design | Suunnittelu Laukka Oy
  • LVIA-suunnittelu | Sitowise Oy
  • Electrical design | Insinööritoimisto Varpiola
  • Interior design | alt Arkkitehdit Oy
  • Pääurakoitsija | Rakennusliike Kuoma Oy
  • Wood component supplier | CrossLam Oy, Versowood Oy, Kuhmon AA-Puu Oy and Keminmaan Puurakenne Oy
  • Photographs | Mikko Auerniitty and Ville-Pekka Ikola
  • Text | Antti Karsikas