The students, faculty and staff of the Aalto University Töölö campus study and work in a milieu characterised by exceptional architecture and beautiful art. Over the decades, the buildings of the former School of Economics, now known as the Aalto University School of Business, have witnessed countless stories about life within their walls.
Wood panels bring warmth to the interior of the main building.
The new business students beginning their studies this autumn will write their own chapter in the history of the campus and experience the premises of the school in their own way. What is the environment we study and work in like?
Warm home for hard science
The main building of the School of Business was completed in May 1950, but the building decision had been made as early as in 1935. The wartime between the planning and the construction phase of the project left very concrete marks on the final appearance of the building. The wooden ends of the downstairs lobby coat racks resemble the shape of the coffins used at the front, and the zigzag patterns used to decorate the railings and floors have been inspired by anti-aircraft searchlights seen in the night sky. The small windows of the upstairs silent reading room resemble loopholes. The years between the planning and the construction of the building resulted in references to the war, but also in a unique combination of architecture from the 1930s and the 1940s.
Searchlight-inspired patterns in the stairwell.
It would be easy to spend hours admiring the main building. However, there are a couple of spots that are particularly characteristic of the building and leave an unforgettable impression on visitors. These spots also include an immeasurable amount of sentimental value that has accumulated over the decades. As you enter the building through the main entrance, you are welcomed by a warm and cosy atmosphere. The downstairs lobby is spacious and spreads out in several directions, but it still manages to make visitors feel heartily welcome. Warm wood is one of the recurring elements in the building, and it brings both dignity and warmth to the interior. Business thus has a soft and warm home at the School of Business although the business world is sometimes considered hard and cold.
The assembly hall has been used for holding exams and recording radio broadcasts.
The use of wood is perhaps most impressive in the assembly hall that is entered through the main lobby. The entire hall has been panelled using Oregon pine. The assembly hall with its arched pine panel ceiling has been the venue for exams and various events from the humorous Mursujaiset to the Ceremonial Conferment of Doctoral Degrees and concerts. The space has even been used to record YLE morning radio broadcasts.
Student restaurant Rafla is, despite its slightly lacking acoustics, a popular meeting place. There is a reason for the noisiness of the restaurant: the textured surface of the ceiling lost its sound-absorbing characteristics when the ceiling was painted during a thorough renovation. The buzz of conversation does give the space a certain cosy atmosphere and students and staff members often pop in to take a break from studying or working. Originally, Rafla was designed to be a lunch restaurant for both students and staff members. Later on, an upstairs lecture hall was converted into staff restaurant Proffa.
Part of the identity of business students and staff
Annukka Jyrämä, D.Sc. (Econ. & Bus. Admin.) and the mother of Genius Loci, a book about the architecture, design and art of the School of Business, believes that the campus plays a part in forming the identity of students and staff at the School of Business.
‘The environment we work in naturally affects us. Having history around us brings a certain depth and continuity to our activities’, she reflects.
Jyrämä knows what she is talking about. She specialises in the marketing of arts and culture and city collaboration and has not only studied but also worked at the Töölö campus for a significant period of time. Jyrämä has had an office in each one of the three big buildings of the campus: the main building, Chydenia and Arkadia. The location of the Töölö campus near the city centre gives it a unique nature as the campus has gradually expanded to neighbouring buildings.
‘It’s fun that each building has its own characteristics and history.’
‘The fragmented nature of the campus is somewhat challenging: you don’t always even realise that you are on campus as you go from one building to another. However, it’s fun that each building has its own characteristics and history’, Jyrämä says.
Something old, something new
Updating the old and traditional spaces to meet today’s studying and working needs has brought its own challenges to developing the campus. Working methods and purposes of use have changed over the decades. The main building originally included both classrooms for theoretical studies and a large number of spaces suitable for hands-on activities.
The offices in wing C, for instance, used to be laboratories where the composition of sausages or the tensile strength of paper could be tested. These activities seem very distant to the modern-day business student. The former chemistry and goods & commodities lecture hall is now known as the Tieto computer lab. Its computers are very popular, especially when a deadline for course work is approaching.
The main building underwent a major renovation towards the end of the 1990s. The renovation was carefully planned and carried out in a way that honoured the history of the building. The work performed restored the former glory of the building.
Annukka Jyrämä in restaurant Proffa.
‘After the renovation the unique atmosphere of the main building was somehow emphasized. They didn’t change much, but rather highlighted what was already here’, Jyrämä says.
‘People don’t want to shut themselves in quiet chambers anymore’
Needs constantly change with the times and some of the improvements made during the renovation project have already become outdated, but remaining in an unchanging state has never been the objective. Nowadays people often want to use their own laptop computer or tablet on campus and suitable spaces for doing so are needed.
‘I get the feeling that working in corridors is currently popular. People don’t want to shut themselves in quiet chambers anymore, and perhaps prefer being surrounded by a slight hustle and bustle’, Jyrämä ponders.
‘In my opinion, it’s quite easy to update these spaces. Some changes have already been made: the downstairs lobby now has new sofas for comfortable sitting.’
After a short think, Jyrämä is able to list her favourite locations on campus. In addition to the lobby and assembly hall of the main building, the extension of the Chydenia restaurant also receives praise for its beauty and comfortable atmosphere. Jyrämä also has fond memories of the old restaurant Rafla where she has spent time both as a student and a university employee.
‘It’s a beautiful and light space and it boasts nice elements. During my working years, I have attended staff events at the restaurant. The president of Aalto University has, for instance, hosted mulled-wine get-togethers there before Christmas’, she smiles.
Designers of the main building:
- Rector: O. W. Louhivuori
- Architects: Hugo Harmia & Woldemar Baeckmann
- Interior design: Olli Borg ja Ilmari Tapiovaara
- Lightning: Paavo Tynell
- Acoustics: Paavo Arni
- Paintwork & staircase A: Eino Kauria
- Sculpture "Liikevoitto" (in front of the main entrance): Aimo Tukiainen
Photos: Aki-Pekka Sinikoski