Tapiolan Aino and Sampo Housing
Sea ahoy! Most people strolling along the seashore route, Espoo’s Waterfront Walkway, enjoy the sea view, and for good reason. Along the city’s seafront plots are mostly very ordinary houses, which don’t turn any heads. The area is one of the most prestigious ones in Espoo, but the architectonic quality of the buildings does not always live up to the potential of the location. With the arrival of the new urban block designed by Kirsi Korhonen and Mika Penttinen, the state of affairs has improved, as both money and style have been lavished on the Koukkuniemenranta complex.
The planning of the area has been guided by views towards the sea, which is just beyond Matinlahdentie road and the beach. The siting of the buildings, their form, floor plans and distribution of windows are all justified by maximisation of the sea views. Closest to the shoreline there is a row of semis and behind them four four-storey blocks, whose residents can enjoy the seascape through gaps between the semis and over them. The blocks of flats have a single stairwell, a solution that links the city block nicely with the semi-urban scale of the context.
The ribbon of two-storey semis is the block’s prestigious facade. With their sizable end wall windows, patios and eaves the staggered buildings reach out towards the sea. The gently sloping pitched roofs add a contemporary sculptural touch to their pale-rendered, minimalist appearance. Although the blocks of flats look more conventional, the whole conveys the same aura of high quality.
The details are refined. The window jambs and railings are so simple that their design must have required a great deal of time and professional skill. Dark coloured brickwork has also been used in the block interior, matching well with the tall pine trees and heather that have been preserved on the upper part of the plot. At first glance the turf roofs of the car ports seem surprisingly rustic alongside the simple elegance of the rest. A second glance makes you think that the roof is justified in the context. The time has come for the aesthete to accept the fact that ecology can override aesthetics. The layouts of the semis are pleasant and functional. The halves of the semis differ slightly from one another to ensure both parts sufficient evening sun and privacy.
The architects have managed to create several spaces with a different ambience under the sloping ceilings of the dwellings and there are cosy nooks in the balcony-patio area. The moderate plan depth of the blocks of flats has enabled apartment floor plans with window openings in three directions – the only minor cosmetic flaw being the two-room flats, which only open towards the south and have a kitchenette that is quite far from the windows.
The floor plans are straightforward. The generous floor areas in relation to the number of rooms and stair landings leading to only three units provide a good basis for this clarity. The designers’ concept of concentrating wet areas on the north side, so that the residents can combine or subdivide the south end spaces as they wish, seems a workable solution. Especially impressive is the stairwell, which in these houses is not just a necessary evil, but an uplifting spatial experience.
Summarized from Ulla Engman’s article published in Finnish Architectural Review 5/2013