Enter: Sipoo High School and IT college, Finland

ENTER es el resultado de un concurso de arquitectura por invitación celebrado en 2003. Éste es el primer edificio de su tipo en Finlandia que une una escuela de educación secundaria superior con una escuela de formación profesional en tecnología de la información, lo que permite estudiar simultáneamente ambas licenciaturas. El edificio en forma de L es la última pieza de un amplio campus educativo y completa su rincón más público. Esta situación determina la solución urbana con dos tiras curvas, siendo la más pequeña la más urbana, directamente conectada con la calle donde se ubica la entrada principal al edificio, mientras que la más grande conecta al edificio con el campus de la escuela. Este sector se caracterizó con “islas” verdes y árboles frutales de manzanas y cerezas, los cuales se eligieron por sus flores blancas que brotan a finales del mes de mayo. La tradición en Finlandia es que, en esa época, durante la graduación, los estudiantes reciben un sombrero blanco especial - igual que lo hacen los árboles.

ENTER is a result of an invited architectural competition which was held in 2003. Our entry “Enter” received the first prize. This school building is first of its kind in Finland: for the first time a senior high school and a vocational college for information technology are joined together. It is possible for students to study both degrees simultaneously. After winning the competition the commission was given to us and planning for realization started. During the process we worked a lot with large scale models and 1 to 1 scale material and detail studies.

The new idea to combine two traditionally separated schools was very intriguing. We found it rewarding to introduce new spaces for synergy and interaction. The central space of the school is a result of this thinking as well as the open appearance. In this space all students and teachers meet and interact. The core space was intentionally left unprogrammed so that any kind of action is welcome to take place there.
The budget of the project was very low (1500€/m2) so careful thinking of the focus and chosen materials and products was required.

The L-shaped school building is the last piece in a larger educational campus. It completes the most public corner of the campus. This situation dictates the urban solution; There are two curved yards; The smaller one is more urban and directly connected to the street forming the main entry to the building; The larger one connects the building to the school campus. This side is characterized by green “islands” and fruit trees. The fruit trees – apple and cherry – are chosen so that they blossom white during the graduation in the end of may. The tradition in Finland is that a new graduate receives a special white hat on graduation day – so do the trees.

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The facades are light and open. We wanted to make the building as open as possible – reflecting the new ideas in Finnish education. The learning process is open and flexible. The community sees what is going on in the school and the students can benefit from interaction with other students, teachers and the community. Learning takes place not only during the classes but everywhere. There is a wireless network on all campus which allows students and teachers take the learning process in any place desired.

The main frame of the building  is made mainly of concrete. The columns are of steel. All stairs are cast on situ concrete. The facades are made of glass and wood. On straight facade elements the window frames are made of massive pine. The solid wooden surfaces are of Finnish pine treated with slightly pigmented oil. The idea was to create clearly defined human scale surfaces which relate to the surrounding small town scale and colors.

The curving glass facades are the most special feature of the project. The challenge here was to make a changing radius curve with a technically and economically successful structural unit. The solution is an L-shaped vertically proportioned steel-glass element which is rotated according to the changing curve radius. The outer glass pane of the element was made longer to achieve a refined feather-like appearance. The detailing and experimental nature of the solution was also the most challenging part of the realization. The system was specially developed for this case and many 1 to 1 scale models and meetings with several specialist were required.

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The interior atmosphere is a combination of exposed rough materials such as concrete and warm wooden surfaces which consist mainly  of varnished birch plywood. The technical installations were left mostly exposed in order to create a relaxed workshop atmosphere. The material palette of gray concrete and golden wood are completed with lime green sun curtains on the glass facades.

The intention in all our architecture is to use authentic materials. In this case it means exposed concrete, natural wooden surfaces and glass. Authenticity extends also to the structures – the frame and construction is also exposed.

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