The Finnish pavilion at Shanghai World Expo 2010 is called “Kirnu” (“Giant’s Kettle”). Designed by a team from Helsinki-based architect's office JKMM, Kirnu won first prize among 104 entries in the design competition, which was announced in May 2008. The results were made public in October 2008 in Helsinki. The planning started immediately, and construction began in April 2009, with the pavilion due to be completed in April 2010. The head designer of the pavilion is architect Teemu Kurkela. Below is a description of the Kirnu concept as seen by the architect.
The Finnish pavilion at Shanghai World Expo 2010 portrays our country in microcosm, presenting both Finland and its society to the world. The pavilion can be seen as a miniature city built by Finns. Its inner space tells stories of Finland and the Finns. The pavilion is an example of how Finns are building better cities according to the principles of sustainable development. Like Finnish society, the pavilion combines creativity, high technology, and culture – a unity that makes for good human life.
The sculptural architecture of the pavilion is aimed at creating visions of such themes as freedom, creativity, and innovation. The pavilion emerges like an island from the surface of the water. A bridge leads visitors over the water and into the pavilion. At the heart of the pavilion is the miniature city’s center and forum for events, the “Giant’s Kettle,” where ideas can meet and mix.
The story of Finland
The story of Finland begins in the times of the ice ages. During the Ice Age, Finland was covered by a several-kilometer-thick layer of ice, whose movement shaped the coastline, lakes, and islands of our land. The Ice Age also created giant's kettles, cavities naturally formed in bedrock as a result of the heavy ice drilling stones through the bedrock. A hollow space resembling a giant's kettle can also be found in the center of the Finnish pavilion, Kirnu.
During the pavilion design competition, I rented a small island near Helsinki. In Finland this is possible because we have thousands of islands. An island represents the ideal getaway. We go to an island across the water and get to enjoy a moment of peaceful retreat from hectic city life. What do we do when arriving on an island, then? The aim is to quiet down and observe nature. The clouds in the sky form a constantly changing work of art. The stones on the shore are beautiful and perfect in their freedom of form. The water ‘s mirror yields reflections and sensations of light. At a closer look, the surface texture of a fish is both ingenious and fascinating. Heading inside, we find the interior of the cottage on the island to be securely small and dusky.
The architecture of Kirnu received its inspiration from nature. Its architect’s creative work resembles that of a cook, using the raw ingredients provided by nature to create something new. The concept of the pavilion is that of an island. Its form language is free without symmetry, as is a stone’s. The pavilion is surrounded by a mirror of water, and its surface is covered with shingles resembling fish scales. The entrance is small and shady; the inner atrium opens toward the sky and the clouds. As does nature itself, the pavilion offers a quiet refuge from busy city life for anyone who wishes to enter.
The pavilion floats over the water, white and ethereal. A thin film of water cools the air flow around the pavilion. As one approaches the building, the subtle, scaly surface structure begins to take shape. The visitor walks on a smooth bridge towards the main entrance, whose fabric surfaces form an inviting portal to the pavilion. Visitors next arrive at the forum, Kirnu. Sheer walls made of fabric rise towards the sky. The wooden floor under the feet resembles a dock and smells of tar. A gently sloping ramp ascends within the thick walls of Kirnu toward the exhibition hall, a high space that winds around the atrium. After the exhibition hall, the ramp continues downward to the exit, shop, and restaurant area.
Activities and facilities are easily and accessibly located in the pavilion. The ground floor houses the Kirnu forum, a restaurant, a shop, the cloakroom, public restrooms, and storage spaces. After the exhibition, visitors can visit the shop and the restaurant. The VIP entryway is on the same side as the skywalk. The basic solution of the pavilion enables large crowds to move smoothly around the exciting spaces. Finally, entertainment, meeting, and staff facilities are found on the third floor.
The pavilion’s main purpose is to present a vision of “Good Life.” The six pillars of good life are freedom, creativity, innovation, community spirit, health, and nature. These pillars are integrated into the pavilion’s architecture; in its spatial and functional solutions. The sculptural shape represents the freedom and creativity in construction enabled by technology. Innovation has been introduced into the project in the form of clarity but also in technical details. The pavilion winds around the forum, making the coming-together of people and community spirit part of the building’s basic design. The natural elements of water and sky are an abstract element of the architecture. A comfortable and inspiring miniature city, the pavilion also provides an example of a healthy environment. People, nature, and technology come together here. The pavilion offers a forum for discussions about development policies for a better life.
Design and construction
pavilion has been designed totally by computer, using the latest 3D modeling
Finnish Tekla program was used for designing the structures. In the design and construction
of the building, the successful close cooperation between Finnish and Chinese
professionals has been a wonderful experience.
(Tekla received the 2009 Internationalization Awards of the President of the
Republic. Read more from here.)
The big challenge for the near future is to find methods for city construction that are sustainable and preserve natural resources. The pavilion is a laboratory for sustainable building, presenting Finnish solutions for future urban construction and keeping to the principles of sustainable development.
The life cycle of the pavilion building is made as long as possible. After the expo, the building will be sold and put to a new use. As regards design, the life span of the building can be extended through development of flexible, high-quality solutions. The pavilion will be dismantled, then reassembled in a new location. All of the steel elements in the basic structure are joined by bolts, so that the building can be disassembled with ease. It is also possible to add new stories to the building if its future function so requires. Thanks to its high technical quality and creative concept, the building has a long life expectancy.
Energy consumption will be minimized. The heat stress caused by the sun is reduced by the direction in which facilities face, the use of light surfaces, and the structure of the windows. Natural ventilation is used, to reduce the need for mechanical ventilation. The thick atrium wall forms a natural flue, and the building materials and construction methods have been selected with the aim of minimizing CO2 emissions. Reuse and recycling of materials will be maximized for the entire life cycle of the building. The most visible example of this is the building’s facade, which is surfaced in scale-like shingles. These scales are made of a mixture of paper and plastic, which is a recycled product of industry. Thus waste is recycled through creation of a new construction material from it: paper–plastic composite. Paper has been made waterproof.
The pavilion is an example of how the built environment can contribute to increasing social capital. A society that lives by the principles of sustainable development requires not only economic capital but also social capital. Social capital is also a prerequisite for a competitive society. Competitiveness, in turn, enables a life in accordance with sustainable development. The built environment creates the physical framework for this process. The aim is to build inspiring places where future innovations and human networks are born.