Designing the central office of the Student Union of the University of Helsinki began with a contest. The main objectives of the design were to highlight the old architecture and coordinate a youthful and dynamic work environment to it. Modern day solutions were brought into the architecturally and culture-historically valuable spaces, and they are now the student union’s impressive business card. The classic world of universities and the procedures of Millennials, the skilled labour of the future, are intertwined in the spaces.
The decor reflects a youthful and active lifestyle. The furnishing is designed for a relaxed, even bohemian, office life. The architecture has been highlighted with the design materials and lighting as well as with a color palette that was developed from the student union’s visuals with respect to the original architecture. For example, the area of a bay window that opens into Mannerheimintie was rid completely of furniture. This way they let in a lot of light and there you can easily marvel at the passing of time.
The meeting spaces were designed to be convertible and multifunctional. Right at the lobby there is a tall table restricted by curtains that is suitable for spontaneous meetings, and on the other side of the cloakroom there is a relaxed sitting area where the students get to meet one another. On the concrete floor of the lobby there is a decorative pattern that was duplicated to the surface of an acoustic mat with the same colors and measurements as it had been for over a hundred years. Other elements characteristic to the valuable estate were also highlighted and the ambiance continues from the lobby to other spaces with respect to the architecture.
Named and unnamed workstations according to different job descriptions were located into the spaces as well as customer service spots. Good acoustics and a soft general appearance were brought to the large working space with the use curtains, removable carpets and acoustic panels. In front of a gorgeous arched window, a seating area was placed where you can have a break and look at the urban bustle of the city center.
Good functionality of the conference rooms is based on enhanced acoustics, sun shades, adjustable lighting and good air conditioning. The modern technology fitted to the valuable estate is top-notch and adds to workplace wellbeing.
From the point of view of the designer it was especially rewarding to get to witness how both of the active user groups of the spaces, the students and staff, have embraced the new spaces. Every square meter is being utilized and satisfaction radiates off of the users.