Aurum – Behind the Design

Piia Viitanen, ARCO Architecture Company

– Project architect, partner

– The largest Architect Company in Finland

– Advocate for sustainable Finnish architectural expertise

The modern university building in a cultural-historical block in Turku, Finland, persuaded its architects to use genuine and natural materials which create a unique atmosphere. In the building with Excellent BREAAM Environmental rating, the choice of wood material led to Lunawood Thermowood because of its extreme dimensional stability.

The building is an impressive project where the history of the area embraces the contemporary architecture. Aurum, built for the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Åbo Akademi University and the Department of Chemistry at the University of Turku, integrates into the culturally significant surroundings, especially with its sustainable material choices.

The project’s lead architect Piia Viitanen from ARCO Architects, says that the design work for Aurum was guided by environmental responsibility, and this was considered in all design solutions. She wanted to use genuine and natural materials that celebrate the characteristics and create a unique atmosphere. As a result, the chosen materials generate strong dialogue and contrast: silky and partly rugged concrete; transparent glass and natural Lunawood Thermowood.

Gem of the Block

Aurum’s entrance, which leads to the atrium – the building’s heart and common lobby – is the eye-catching gem of the entire block. The façade uses similar white wall tiles to the surrounding buildings but in a smaller size. In contrast to that, the entrance uses Lunawood Thermowood battens in an upward-curving shape that creates an impressive and natural look to the space.

“We wanted to use authentic materials as the source of colour.”

“We wanted to use authentic materials as the source of colour, such as transparent glass, cast-in-place concrete with both polished and unpolished surfaces, and wood to bring added warmth and atmosphere. This set high technical requirements for the materials because the colour comes from the material itself and therefore it must be of high quality in terms of its technical standards. As the batten cladding continues from exterior walls to interior surfaces through a glass wall, it was extremely important for the same colour tone to continue from the outdoors inside,” explains Piia Viitanen. Indoors, the Lunawood Thermowood was left untreated and it retains the warm signature colour, the haptic feel and the natural fragrance of the wood. Outdoors the battens were treated with a UV-protected surface treatment agent to maintain the brown colour.

The coherent batten look seamlessly integrates the whole and enables the unity of the architecture and style throughout the building. Dimensionally stable Lunawood Thermowood battens allow long parallel lines and curved lines to continue from outdoors into the seven-storey interior atrium space, as the same Lunawood product can be used for both purposes.

The atrium was designed a shared space for group work and entertaining, and the horizontal wood trim supports this by significantly evening out the soundscape and reverberation time of the space. Also, the wood material brings warmth and softness to the lobby area as a counterweight to the technical study spaces, such as laboratories.

Aurum was a old building which needed

Two-millimetre –  Accuracy and Precision in Key Position

Architect Piia Viitanen emphasises that the dimensional accuracy and precision in installation was a crucial factor when choosing the wood material for the building.

“After analysing a large number of wooden materials, we concluded that no other material offered the technical properties that would allow us to achieve the required level of dimensional accuracy and stability when installing the material, and also in the coming years. In fact, Lunawood Thermowood was the only product that met these requirements. Outdoors the wood must stay dimensionally stable, and indoors in installations the ends of the battens have to extend evenly, with a tolerance of only 2 mm allowed for the space between them”, Viitanen specifies.

“In fact, Lunawood Thermowood was the only product that met these requirements.”

Architects’ Leading Role in Sustainable Constructions

Sustainability and the consideration of ecological values were also important factors when selecting the material for the project. As the whole life cycle of Lunawood Thermowood is sustainable, it supports the values of the University of Turku and its position as a responsible leader in society.

“We believe that architects play a central role in promoting sustainable development and design, as this will guide sustainability in construction in general. This building, for example, has solar panels on the roof and a geothermal heating system,” says Piia Viitanen.

Aurum’s design and implementation achieved BREEAM environmental rating of Excellent. The BREEAM system helps to design and construct buildings with the smallest possible environmental footprint. This was taken into account in both material selection and space efficiency, as well as in terms of HVAC solutions.


Lunawood battens were installed by Raision Puusepät Oy

Behind the Design - Aurum


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