Akola Manor is a listed country house in Ii, a town just north of Oulu. Built in 1796, the main building represents a rare local wooden adaptation of Gustavian-style manor architecture. Its three storeys offer more than 700 square metres of space.
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Originally built by Judge Julius Konrad Antell, the manor passed into the ownership of the Kurkela family in 1910, and JKMM’s founding partner Teemu Kurkela has fond childhood memories of summers in Akola. The building was abandoned for thirty years after the 1980s, which showed in windows that let in snow during the winter.
When restoration began in 2010, the windows were the first item to tackle. It took a total of 10 years to refurbish them, but the manor managed to retain its original windows. Financial aid was provided by the Finnish Museum Agency.
Akola Manor’s ground floor has been restored to its early 19th-century appearance, whereas the first floor has been returned to its original 18th-century look. The attic’s transformation has been the most dramatic: the renovation uncovered numerous different rooftop coverings from over the years and additional support structures for the most recent ceramic shingle roof. Water-damaged logs in the roof structure were replaced, as were the rafters. Kurkela says that it was difficult to find the required 12-metre-long rafter beams, dried slowly with their bark in place, but they eventually found a supplier in Finland. The rafters form a composite structure with the roof’s barrel vault that was also built during the renovation. Aalto University calculated the load-bearing capacities using a supercomputer.
With its log frame and chip-insulated intermediate floors, Akola manor is an impressive example of traditional Finnish wooden construction. The intermediate floors contain an impressive three full trailer truck loads of chips, which were placed between the cardboard sheets glued and sealed to the beams. No plastic whatsoever was used in construction, and there are no nails in the windows either.
Ventilation is traditionally gravity-based, which is surprisingly efficient thanks to the correct placement of the building and the layout of the fireplaces. From March to October, the large windows let in plenty of the sun’s warmth and little external heating is needed. In the outer walls, the gaps between the logs are sealed with moss and straw-clay plaster, which goes well with wood’s ability to expand and shrink with humidity.
Linseed oil paint covers the interior walls. The wall surfaces were treated only after the wetroom floor tiles were in place, as these limestone tiles were installed between two wall logs. The premises were laser-scanned, enabling workers to cut the tiles precisely to measure beforehand off site.
The living room’s floorboards are cut from 40 cm wide and seven metres long Douglas fir, which was not available in Finland but was supplied instead from Germany by the Danish company Dinesen. Kurkela is hoping that a Finnish supplier will eventually appear on the scene to process and sell high-quality northern wood. “This could be Veljekset Vaara from Tervola, for example, who supplied Akola with a total of three kilometres of timber. I wonder if the Vaara brothers even realise how wonderful the wood they are selling is?” ponders Kurkela.
Lauri Louekari served as chief designer and conducted a thorough investigation of the building’s history. All detailing designs are from the hands of Teemu Kurkela himself. Structural designs are by Marko Asell. Nuutti Ay Timo Hammar served as site foreman. Nuutti oversaw the window restoration and Johanna Peuraniemi handled the interior surfaces. Most construction work was by Juho Välikangas.
Completed in 2021, the new architectural layers and entirely redesigned spaces meld with the old to create a unique minimalist atmosphere. Genuine traditional materials and construction techniques were used to ensure a long and healthy future for Akola.
The Akola project also looked for meaningful approaches for reviving the countryside. Kurkela wants to keep Akola’s doors open to the public, and various event and accommodation services are provided by the “Friends of Akola”, including a yoga teacher, fisher, cook, hunter, and historian. North Ostrobothnia’s happiness infrastructure has now been enriched with revived building traditions and brand-new cultural events. Thanks to Akola, happiness has even more room to grow.
Teemu Kurkela’s (JKMM) time-travelling through the history of wood construction took a very personal turn. Initially, he was merely helping his father with repairs, but his father’s passing led to the manor falling into his hands. The project soon became an exploration of his own roots, which made it all the more joyful.
Akola’s restoration left an indelible mark on Kurkela that he now carries with him in his day job. He has a profound respect for wood as a material and wants to incorporate it into his future architecture.
JKMM aims for meaningful architecture and design for a happy future. To flourish, must society’s demands aim high and take culture, knowledge and well-being as starting points. The highest purpose must be happiness. In planning a sustainable society, this is JKMM’s goal. JKMM Architects have participated in building Finnish happiness for almost 25 years.
Project in brief
Akola manor restoration 2010-2021
- Location | Ii
- Purpose | Holiday home and tourist destination
- Constructor/Client | Teemu Kurkela
- Valmistumisvuosi | 2021
- Total area | 720 m2
- Architectural Design | Chief designer: Arkkitehtitoimisto Louekari Oy (Lauri Louekari), construction designer: JKMM Arkkitehdit Oy (Teemu Kurkela)
- Structural design | M Asell Oy (Marko Asell)
- Muut suunnittelijat ja asiantuntijat | Furniture design: JKMM Arkkitehdit Oy (Teemu Kurkela)
- Pääurakoitsija | Responsible foreman: Restoration carpenters Nuutti Ay (Timo Hammar), also window restoration; construction works: Juho Välikangas, Jari Välikangas, Raimo Välikangas and Joni Jämsä
- Muut rakennusliikkeet | Restoration of interior surfaces: Johanna Peuraniemi
- Wood component supplier | Veljekset Vaara Oy, Dinesen A/S, Taskinen Puu Oy Matti Taskinen (radial sawn wood), Hongos Oy (roof rafters), Tillman Oy (railings and ladders), Vaaran Aihkitalot Oy (repair logs), Jussi Sutela Oy (exterior door)
- Muut materiaalit | Furniture carpentry: Ivan Kullvik, Petri Koivusipilä and Atte Pylvänäinen
- Photographs | Teemu Kurkela
- Text | Anu Turunen