Ville Hara - Helsinki Finland
Februari 2010 - Marina van den Bergen

In 2003 the participants of the Archiprix International choose the Ville Hara design, made for a lookout tower, as their favourite. Kupla ('bubble' in English) is situated on Korkeasaari, a small island off the coast of Helsinki. An extra-special feature of this project was that its realization was part of the architect's graduation.

Can you explain in a few words what your graduation project is about?
It's a free form that is individualized by the natural setting. Every year, as part of the Building Technology curriculum, the Architecture Department of Helsinki University of Technology organizes a competition among its students. The competition is primarily about innovative structural designs. The winning design is actually built by the students themselves because there is no budget at all.  We built Kupla mostly with foreign students who were attending summerschool, or were in the Erasmus exchange programme. For the construction of the lookout tower, I choose a gridshell structure because it's durable, cost-effective, and it looks attractive.
The competition asks for temporary structures. One year there was a nice pavilion on the beach, another year there was a small café on an empty lot in de city. But after almost seven years, Kupla is still functioning as a lookout tower.  At night it's beautifully lit, the view is splendid and people still enjoy the space that has been created in the tower.

You started your own office quite soon after graduation.
In Finland most architecture students will study for eight to ten years. It takes this long because most of them work during the daytime. So before I started my own office in 2004 with my business partner Anu Puustinen, I had worked at architecture studios for more than five years. We named our office Avanto Architects, Avanto being the word for a hole in the ice  where we Finns take a refreshing dip in the winter time. We want to create refreshing architecture. The main impulse for starting our own office was winning a competition for a chapel. The realization of the chapel is taking longer than expected; the most recent estimation is that it will be completed in summer 2010.

You justified the form of the lookout tower by stating that 'people experience organic forms as vital and aesthetic'. Looking at your projects, one can't help noticing that the lookout tower is the most blobby one.
Designing this free form was not a phase. At the time I was working on the competition, these kinds of organic forms were quite new in Finland. I really had to defend myself when designing a free-form object. That's why the explanation of why I choose this blob-like architecture is a bit heavy.

How would you characterize Avanto architecture?
We don't have a style style. When passing a building you cannot say something like 'that must be an Avanto'. Our designs are site-specific and we listen very attently to the wishes of our clients. We don't believe in architecture that wants to emphasize its presence. We try to make spaces that evoke emotion, as I did with the Kupla. You don't have to make a blob to create these kinds of spaces.

What are you working on right now?
We are working for private as well public partners, and on projects ranging from very small-scale plans to large-scale developments. Right now we are doing the product design for a Finnish company that specializes in gardening, that's very exciting. And we are designing the sauna section for the Finnish pavilion at the Shanghai World Fair 2010. For the sauna we are using solid wooden logs; the smell, texture and acoustics of massive wood will create a special atmosphere. Although it's very small, again we try to create spaces that evoke emotion. Hopefully the people in Shanghai will experience Avanto when visiting the Finnish pavilion.

Avanto architecture
Helsinki University of Technology - galleries
Helsinki University of Technology - woodstudio