MASSLab + AFRY Ark Studio win competition with “A Roof for Helsinki”

A Roof for Helsinki

MASSLab + AFRY Ark Studio won the Finnish Train Factory Mixed-Use Competition with the aim of developing a new urban landmark for the Pasila machine shop area in Helsinki. The proposal was selected from among five entries in an international competition that took place in two separate selection phases, hosted by the Train Factory Group and Helsinki Municipality.

The former electric train building was transformed into a 45,000 sqm office, retail, and hotel building and reimagined as a part of the social, commercial, and cultural hub in historical heritage. All this was the catalyst to renew the area through a comprehensive urban redesign, where the building attached to 1970’s workshop would become an integral part of the everyday life of the inhabitants of the area.

The winning proposal seeks this through a building born out of the needs of the population. It doesn’t impose itself as a normal building but as a system of uses, actions and habits. The entire street level is organized around an organic vaulted ceiling that invites you in. On top a green platform where you have views over the city.

The whole process was permeated with the notion that it through cooperation that the final strategies and solution should be achieved. During the development of the proposal the involvement of the developer, of public authorities and most importantly the people that dwell around the intervention site was a constant and invaluable asset.

Through constant input from all parties the cohesion of the proposal was achieved. Through this action the promoter (The Train Factory Group) together with Helsinki Municipality enabled the winning team to lean on their multidisciplinary background, where from an abundant wellspring of ideas, backgrounds and practices the final solution was obtained.

Pair this with the will to involve the public in a private venture and you get a solution true to the necessities of the times, a clear sign that when given space, public opinion becomes the catalyst for immediate improvement of the welfare of all. With this strong foundation the winning team could give a comprehensive answer to all that was demanded and more.

The design went above and beyond to materialize an apparently impossible proposal. Opting for an unconventional form permitted a cost-efficient building, suited for everchanging needs. The wood at ground level, part of the Finnish ethos, invites us to move and participate in urban life. The brick is a continuous dialog with the surroundings.

As for the glass top it dissolves the building into the landscape of Helsinki. This makes these options both evident and irreverent. A rather closed of area can become a new nucleus for urban renewal and reinvention. Reimagining landscape and cityscape as one offers a step forward as we try to reinvent social norms and daily life.

Based on previous successful partnerships between the studios, the team led by MASSLab ensured creative experience, as well as the necessary local insights and technical expertise from AFRY Ark Studio, to deliver a contemporary and fresh approach to the project.

Among the competition entries were other top architectural offices worldwide like Cobe + Schauman & Nordgren Architects, Architects Lahdelma & Mahlamäki; Architects Rudanko + Kankkunen, and Tommila Architects & Kaleidoscope Architectural & Urban Design.

The vision for the Train Factory will enhance and build upon the rich cultural heritage of the area, which hosts relevant historical buildings and large public spaces.

A strategy based on a unique blend of tradition and forward-thinking solutions, where the ambition is to set an example that contributes to the sustainability ambitions of the municipality and benefits everyone in the city. Source by MASSLab.

  • Location: Pasila, Helsinki, Finland
  • Architect: MASSLab
  • Collaboration: AFRY Ark Studio (architecture & engineering)
  • Client: Train Factory Group
  • Program: Mixed-Use + Urban design
  • Area: 45.000 sqm
  • Year: 2023
  • Images: Courtesy of MASSLab