UPM Biofore house

Firm: Helin & Co Architects
Type: Office Building
YEAR: 2013
SIZE: 100,000 sqft – 300,000 sqft

“The more dynamic an organization is, the more unprejudiced people’s attitudes are towards the reconciliation of space and work process. They do not announce at once that they need this many separate rooms and meeting spaces. We have devised a design method of our own. It is iterative: we start with very small things and begin to produce sketches, which the client organization then comments on. We do not need any precise program. It is enough to have stories about how the organization works. It is delightful, creative work, and when you feel that you succeed, it is a very pleasant experience.”
-Pekka Helin, Chairman and Founder, Architect Helin & Co Architects

UPM is the world’s second biggest forest company, it leads the integration of bio and forest industries into an innovation driven, resource-efficient future. For their new headquarter UPM’s intention was to build a building that reflected their principles of innovation, collaboration, sharing ideas and open communication. After conducting an international architecture competition; the present Biofore house is the result of the winning entry by Finnish architectural firm Helin & Co Architects.

It is located in the heart of Helsinki in close vicinity of architectural masterpieces designed by the likes of Alvar Aalto, Eliel Saarinen and Stephen Holl. Biofore House was designed to include sustainability features that align with UPM’s dedication to environmental responsibility and energy efficiency. These were the important guidelines that were followed during the design and planning process.

For design process heavy input from the people who were supposed to work in the building was taken into consideration. The extraordinarily close and intensive collaboration between the design team and the UPM’s management team which included people from all functions; from in IT to Human Resources resulted into heavy design influences which can be seen in many aspects of the building. The integration of modern IT-systems into the building’s “nervous system” even the office furniture used in the workstations are results of these influences.

The client’s objective was top-quality architecture in terms of both functionality and aesthetics, yet within reasonable costs. The city plan did not allow for maximum use of wood; so the building is a combination of plan provisions and wooden surfaces. The formal motifs of the exterior are abstracted references to wood. However, UPM’s own wood-based products and bio-materials have been used extensively both on the interior and on the exterior. The Bioforum Gallery is a piece of stump and the bridge crossing Alvar Aallon Katu Street a beveled polyhedron.
Both are clad with timber.

Ecology and advanced energy saving prompted the helical sunshades made of refined steel mesh, the material of the machine clothing used in paper processing. The characteristics of the site are utilized by means of several west-facing terraces. The floors of these outdoor terraces are made of UPM ProFi boards.

An essential element in the facade system is 60-mm thick UPM plywood that forms the structure of the exposed wooden window frames. Visitor meeting rooms and the corridor zones of office floors have curved ceilings made of ash-veneered UPM Grada boards. The walls of the visitor meeting rooms are clad with sound-absorbing Wisa-Phon panels with veneer finish.The interiors surprise with their lightness. Daylight floods even to the basement restaurant.

The main interior element, essential in creating the identity of the building, is its free-form atrium, which allows for communication and gives the building an integral part of its identity. Adjacent to the entrance is a high cone-shaped gallery which enables product and art exhibitions and other small-scale events. Conference centre on the ground floor swirls around the atrium – guests are received in the bright café area in the lofty atrium. The Lusintesis light installation was designed in collaboration with Tapio Rosenius/LCD. Adjacent to the entrance is a projecting conical structure, the Bioforum, which is a high space for product and art exhibitions as well as diverse small events.

The offices, designed for 450 employees, are all open spaces, including those for the management. What is new here are the unusual teamwork and brainstorming spaces. The lifts of the office floors open to a light, multiform shared space, which enables informal encounters as well as space for team and individual tasks. The teamwork spaces, phone booths and meeting rooms of the office floors provide alternative work areas for the varied situations during a working day.

Biofore House is a timeless icon and a symbol of innovation. It is a perfect example of collaboration between the client and the designers that has produced a product which encompasses the values of both the parties. The building has earned the LEED® Certified Platinum building certification. The operating costs of the new building are as much as one third lesser than UPM’s former head office.

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