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Sibelius Academy and Concert Hall, Helsinki

Part 2 Project 2000
Keith Dillon
University of Huddersfield Huddersfield | UK
The Sibelius Academy and Concert Hall is based on an international competition brief for a site adjacent to Aalto's Finlandia hall and Steven Holl's Kiasma art gallery in Helsinki, Finland.

The harsh northern climate of Finland required a different approach encompassing aspects of sustainable development related particularly to the environmental context and the user well being. Spanning the newly created waterfront, the Concert Hall is a large stainless steel, glazed sculptural organic mass which has two egg-shaped timber auditoria suspended within. The Academy is formed by two slender orthogonal fingers of teaching accommodation with accompanying atrium circulation. Both forms are married together in a fan shape in plan and section echoing Finnish culture through Alvar Aalto's design principles, island architecture, and Sibleius' love of landscape through the structural composition of his musical scores.

From these criteria, built form and landscape (man-made and organic) evolved in harmony to produce a cohesive contextual sculpture attempting timeless poetic beauty. The auditoria (fixed and engineered) and the foyer space (free and flowing) merge together to form one large landscaped "performance space". This contrasts with the simple and rational education facility. Material choice combined with tectonic detailing provide a holistic sustainable development.

Keith Dillon

The Design Thesis by Keith Dillon is a design for the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. The site alongside Aalto's Finlandia Hall and adjacent to the railway lines feeding Helsinki Station has been excavated to recreate the old waterfront of Helsinki. The new concert hall and music school (the two key parts of the Sibelius Academy) are conceived of as an island in the water.
The new building forms a deliberate landmark alongside older famous neighbours, creating a 'string of pearls' adjacent to the excavated inlet. The building itself makes reference to the music of Sibelius and his love of nature. The two concert halls are 'eggs' lined inside and out in aspen which creates a contrast to the steel and glass container in which they sit. The building is transparent to afford spectacular views across the water, and at night to allow the drama of the inside to enliven the waterfront.
The music school consists of narrow teaching wings divided by slivers of glass evoking icicles. The glazed canyons between the wings face south west and provide useful solar gain. They also create social space for students and staff alike.
Besides making reference to the northern landscape in the choice of basic forms, aspects of the Finnish tradition of building are incorporated. The roofs slope to eject snow and ice in winter, the spaces between buildings are narrow and sheltered, entrances are protected by wings, materials are used for their tactile quality. In addition, the student employs wherever possible local materials (granite, aspen) and imported steel is delivered by boat from the stainless steel Avanti plant in Sweden. The project won the University's Sustainability Prize.

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