The headquarters of VR Group moved from the Helsinki Railway Station into Iso Paja (which loosely translates to Big Smithery) in West Pasila in the May of 2018. Pasila is fast getting built to be one of Finland’s most bustling train stations. For this reason this new hub of traffic is more than a fitting location for VR’s headquarters. The role of Workspace was to determine along with the staff of VR what are the future ways of working, to challenge and support them during the change, and to both help and guide them in the initialization process. Furthermore, we were in charge of planning the premises and visual design as well as supervising the construction site for VR.
New ways of working were not only utilized when developing them for the staff at Iso Paja, but also in the planning and construction process of the project: the cooperation between the designers and construction workers was easy through open interaction and shared 3D modeling. The building’s main user, VR, was put at the center of the project. It was executed from start to finish by listening to the user.
The work was done with precision: the materials, furniture and workstations were tested by different groups before making the final choice. This was done to ensure that they function in all of the broad areas of use that they were designed for. The convertibility of spaces took the key position throughout the entire project. The spaces are easy to adjust now and in the future. Even construction got easier when fixed solutions that can be converted according to needs were used in planning. For example, conference rooms can be altered to fit the nature of the meeting by moving the furniture around.
Free flow of information was one of the key objectives, and for that reason it was clear right at the start that transitioning between spaces should be made easier. From the floors 2 to 6, a staircase was opened at close proximity of a diverse break room located at the middle of the floor. The staff can easily perceive the spaces with clear zoning. On top of locating the project spaces to the center of the floor, conference rooms, too, were centralized to one wing. A lot of attention was paid to the acoustic properties of the conference rooms and supporting spaces during the project, and the end result was affirmed with measurements.
Workspace took actively part in VR’s work community through the entirety of the project so that the outcome would be the best imaginable. “Along the road we found everything that we also should: doubts, ponders, common conversations, rich interaction and thrilling excitement. What a fantastic shared journey towards the new,” says Minna Söderholm, the change management specialist of Workspace.
The introduction to the new spaces wanted to be made easy. Everyone found a VR spirited moving box from their own locker after the move. The locker functions as a storage space for an office bag and other personal belongings after unloading the box. In addition to personal lockers, the work spaces have team cabinets that are shared by the staff. You can find the rest of the daily support functions in close proximity of the lockers, such as the printing spot, coat racks, toilets and recycling spot.
“Iso Paja with its renewed work environment and different spaces is more than a century ahead of Eliel Saarinen’s plans. The pace of progress from the times of the czar to modern times is only the beginning. In accordance with its name, Iso Paja is a place where the ways of working are constantly being shaped. You are not creating new boundaries with electric tables, phone booths or open cafés, but instead trying to free yourself from them completely – to create new possibilities for the corporation’s true strengths: iron-hard experience, multidisciplinary knowhow, bold development work and strong teams,” says VR Group’s project manager Jani Jääskeläinen.
On top of VR’s office, in close cooperation with the head designer L-Arkkitehdit, we designed spaces on the first floor of the building. The active and fresh unity of the 250 seated staff restaurant, auditorium, meeting center and reception are great not only for working but also dining.