The block at the Aalto University campus, designed by the award-winning Finnish bureau
Verstas Architects, is a new type of education venue that combines design and business
under the same roof. It is dedicated to the concept of doing things together. The building is
a place for casual encounters and collaboration between students and teaching staff, for
intense creation, teaching and research in creative and business fields. This cooperation is
expected to foster new types of start-ups, companies and future talent.
The building complex is an unusual mix of functions. Besides housing the Aalto University
School of Arts, Architecture and Design (the Väre building) and the School of Business,
both high-ranking globally, it also includes the shopping centre ‘A bloc’ and is built above
and accessed directly from the new Aalto University underground station. The ground floor
lobby is open to the public. The complex has 45,000 square meters of space and hosts
1,850 students and 350 employees.
The new campus block adapts to the cosy scale of its surroundings. World-famous architects
Aino and Alvar Aalto’s masterplan for the Otaniemi district in the 1940s created a
village-like campus area. The new building complex is huge, but it is designed to
appear as clusters of smaller buildings that have a comfortable scale – a principle
reminiscent of Aaltos’ design for the old main building. The facades are red brick and
patterned glass and complement the existing campus architecture in a contemporary way.
The building complex forms a completely new square with the iconic, old main building. It
brings together the main entrances to both university buildings, the underground station and
retail spaces, thus adding a spot of urban bustle to the leafy campus. The square is the key
new social space in the design.
The architecture of working together
The spatial layout supports interaction and flexible use of the building. “We have aimed to
encourage encounters by placing workshops of different fields on the same floors and
mixing staff and student spaces,” explains architect Jussi Palva from Verstas Architects.
“In addition, students from the School of Business and the School of Arts, Architecture and
Design have some courses together. This means that some of the spaces are very
concretely shared. Users will meet in the squares, cafeterias, student galleries and various
group working spaces, or simply on the stairs that are one of the main visual elements in the
The building unfolds as a carefully planned spatial sequence. Rooms are arranged around
interior courtyards that open views to all the floors and the stairs between them, which
creates a sense of space. The public lobby stands out from the other spaces and helps
users orient themselves in the building.
The building provides a variety of spaces for different learning situations. Project spaces and
offices can be rearranged. New and innovative pedagogical and study methods might arise
in the years to come, and they need to be met in a flexible manner. Verstas Architects believes
that the contingent future must be taken into account already in today’s design.