The Metla Building, the Finnish Forest Research Institute

The Metla Building stands out on the campus of the University of Joensuu due to its material and its concise form. From the exterior, the building appears to be a wood box. The forecourt, which is the gate to the building and which is demarcated by the walls made from logs from demolished houses, is highlighted in the figure.

The offices and laboratory facilities of the research institute curl around the inner courtyard and the vestibule. The yard is dominated by the conference facilities, which resemble a boat that has been turned upside down, and the sloped columns of the vestibule, which have been inspired by the log booms from floating logs down rivers.

The innovative use of Finnish wood was the starting point for the design. A flexible column-beam-slab system was created for the building in a 7.2 m module. For the structure and building technology, 1.2 m modules have been prepared for flexible conversion. This solution makes it possible to move partition walls and even change the façade.

The columns, beams and box slabs of the frame are made from fir glulam. The height of the box slab intermediate floors is that of a concrete intermediate floor. The façade elements have been clad with vertical fir planks on the outside and plywood on the inside. The vertical ribs of the outer frame are made of fir glulam.

The windows, fixtures and the supplementary structures are chiefly made of pine. The suspended ceilings are made of pine lathes and the surfaces of the doors are birch veneer. The floor of the conference facility has been made of fir planks and all of Finland’s hardwood species are represented in the chairs. The aspen shingles of the conference facility and the log walls of the forecourt have been treated with dale tar.

The building has been realised as a single fire section. It has been equipped with sprinklers and fire alarms. The laboratory facilities and the majority of the wet spaces have been located on the bottom floor to control dampness and for flexible conversion. The narrow frame depth illuminates the facilities, ensuring that they are enjoyable and comfortable.

This research institute is the first modern wooden office building in Finland. A wooden column-beam-slab structure has never been attempted before on this scale.

Finnish Wood Award 2005

Project in brief

The Metla Building, the Finnish Forest Research Institute

  • Location | Joensuu
  • Purpose | Research Institute
  • Constructor/Client | Senaatti-kiinteistöt, Metsäntutkimuslaitos, Joensuun tutkimuskeskus
  • Volume | 33 151 m3
  • Architectural Design | SARC Architects ltd
  • Structural design | Insinööritoimisto Magnus Malmberg Oy
  • Pääurakoitsija | Rakennusliike A.Taskinen Oy
  • Photographs | Okke Kiviluoto, SARC and Jussi Tiainen
  • Text | Antti-Matti Siikala