Choose your seat!
A landmark in Jätkäsaari and a trendsetter in the Finnish school world opened in August 2019. The huge 800-student school building designed by AOR architects was a challenging and enjoyable design project for Avarrus Interior Architects Laura and Heini. How can a single building be equipped with learning environments from a first grade learner to a teenager exploring their future? And additionally so that the placement of class groupings and the rearrangement of furniture in the future as curricula changes will remain flexible and feasible?
Collective study space
The City of Helsinki's Educational Facilities Service inspired new ways of working. Kirsi Myllymäki, the school's principal, assistant principal Marja Hukkanen and a close-working group of teachers participated in the design work. At the request of the users, classrooms are not named for certain classes and students of a particular age; they are are flexible and suitable for use by everyone in the building. The city has been keen to open the school's doors to the neighborhood next to school activities. The large central hall can easily be imagined, for example, as a concert arena, or the dining hall as a meeting place for housing cooperatives.
Avarrus' design team learned to know the school's staff already during the design process of the neighboring Rionkatu school a few years earlier. Teachers gained experience in the functionality and comfort of various new school furniture in different teaching situations and this information was carefully utilized in the furniture design of Jätkäsaari Comprehensive School.
Multifunctional learning space
The interior design includes a variety of natural meeting places that add to the sense of community and invite you to work in groups. The teaching hubs are located in the corners of the building and their three classrooms are furnished for different teaching situations. In addition to desk work, the possibility of floor work has been kept in mind. Some of the classrooms have movable folding desks; others have smaller desks with castors. Student chairs include stackable stools and chairs, chairs with castors and chairs by the desk tops of the window walls, which easily turn towards the teacher when attention is needed. In addition, there are loungers, floor pillows and a few bean bag chairs. Memorable furnishings were also chosen as inspiration source for the users, such as the colorful felt stools in the library, where one might see the cranes on the Jätkäsaari construction site, the other a four-leaf clover and the third a galloping animal.
Comfort and coziness have been achieved through a diverse selection of furniture, an earthy color scheme and a variety of textiles. The sunny okra tones of the carpets and the soft material bring a safe and soothing feeling to the one sitting on it. The classroom partition is made out of wavy soft felt which also acts as an acoustic element. Lots of furniture, such as movable whiteboards, have warm wood tones. The classrooms also have direct access to the balconies where students can admire the miracle of growth in their own pots while “oxygen hopping”.
Fitting in with the school's architecture and the atelier-like style of the classrooms, the furniture is a monochrome, stylish sculptural furniture. The idea of monochrome also fits in with wood-crafted reading room cubes, light gray concrete floors and other monochrome architectural themes.
Organic cotton backed, high performance fabric in earthy tones on floor pillows.
Upon arrival visitors will make notice of good indoor acoustics. The wall materials chosen by the architect and the magnificent skylight windows contribute to the acoustics of the space. Some classrooms have a textile floor and in spaces with concrete floor rugs are placed to soften up the feeling. Upholstered furniture help to create good acoustics. Some furniture have an acoustic surface: for example, the interior surfaces of wooden benches are covered with acoustic fabric and dining room tables have felt under the table tops. The stools and tables in the dining hall are entirely completely wooden to avoid the frequent jangling and rattling that metallic stool feet often create.
Students gather to study in groups around a glass art piece by Tuomas A. Laitinen.
All curtains at the school are made of fabrics with high acoustic qualities. For example the class room glass wall curtain with thin warm grey toned stripes allows some light to pass through, but the curtain creates the visual barrier if desired by the teacher.
The school has been in action now from August 2019. Designers job is done and now the children and adults alike fill the building with life and mould the surroundings according to their needs. You can follow the schools daily activities in Instagram: jatkasaaren_peruskoulu.
Long live Education!
Text: Laura Karhunen and Heini Kilmer , 19.11.2019