Finnish Nature Centre Haltia, Espoo, Finland
Location: Espoo, Finland
Total Area: 3500m2
Client: Finland Forestry Association
Programme: Nature school, exhibition spaces, education facilities, auditorium and nature lookout
- Houses facilities to educate about the natural Finnish environment
- Is completely immersed in its surroundings
- Takes its energy from natural sources
- Was the first CLT (cross laminated timber) public building in Northern Europe
- All materials focus on both environmentally friendliness and aesthetic quality
- Teaches about working with the environment through its architecture
- Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects also designed the exhibition spaces
The Finnish Nature and Education Centre Haltia in Espoo, Finland, completed in 2013, is a multi-functional, modern cultural and educational building offering domestic and international visitors exhibitions and information on Finnish nature, as well as restaurant, conference and hiking services. Haltia has received a great deal of attention, not only for its programme, but also for sustainability and for being one of the biggest wooden public buildings in Finland. Consequently, the museum has received the Special Commendation for Sustainability in the European Museum of the Year Award 2015 competition, and the Finnish Wood Prize in 2013. Haltia was also included in the Nordic Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2016, reflecting its true ‘Finnishness’.
Haltia’s Nature School, exhibitions and the surrounding natural environment give school groups the opportunity to learn, experience, be inspired and try things for themselves; virtually all the comprehensive school classes of the Capital Region visit Haltia approximately once a year. At Haltia, young people are introduced to Finland’s unique and diverse nature as well as to the dialogue between Finnish culture and nature. Haltia’s Nature School also emphasizes biodiversity, hiking skills and environmental responsibility.
With such important goals, especially in today’s world, it was crucial that the architecture of the centre clearly reflected these ambitions. As such, sustainability, the responsible use of natural resources and the relationship between the building and its surroundings, formed the starting point design.
Haltia is completely immersed in its surroundings. It takes its energy from the sun and the ground, utilising a combination of solar and geothermal systems, which is stored in the rock beneath the building and a system of batteries. The centre orientates itself relative to its environment, using its context to contribute to energy saving; the northern façade sits within a rock – the walls of which create the auditorium - whilst the southern terrace protects wide glass surfaces which give visitors a direct relationship with the natural surroundings. The overall shape of the building has also been designed for its optimal energy usage. It is said that the building sits in its place like a bird seeking shelter in a pocket of snow.
The long relationship between the Finnish society and timber, combined with a desire for innovation, led to a design based around a load bearing cross-laminated timber structure; the first public building of its type. At the same time, the building learns directly from its environment and context, but projects a vision of national and international significance. All the wooden finishes of Haltia were chosen for both their environmental friendliness and aesthetic qualities; focusing on sustainability, practicality and user experience. To enhance the biological durability and fire safety, the exterior spruce cladding was silica-impregnated and heat-treated. The treatment does not harm the environment in any way and is completely recyclable. Wax treated CLT timber elements make suitable interior walls with no need for wall coverings.
Finnish Wood Prize 2013
European Museum Forum, Museum of the year 2015 (special commendation for sustainability)
Images: Mika Huisman