The residential area of Jyrkkälä was built at the turn of the 1970s in response to growing housing needs. Located around 4 kilometres from the centre of Turku on Finland’s southwest coast, Jyrkkälä comprises 17 apartment blocks on a 6-hectare site.
All the 17 apartment blocks belong to the limited liability housing company kiinteistöosakeyhtiö Jyrkkäläpolku and their refurbishment project was completed in spring 2018. The official celebration to mark the completion was held on 26 May.
“Life here has been quite action-packed at times, but now the area has settled down,” a taxi driver comments on the area.
For almost half a century, Jyrkkälä bore the hallmark of a suburb. The dwellings had naturally been refurbished inside, but it was not until 2014 that a start was made in earnest on renovating the outside appearance of the building, the façade.
Marjatta Roth, managing director of limited liability housing company kiinteistöosakeyhtiö Jyrkkäläpolku, said that the appearance of the area with its 1,300 residents has been transformed from looking like a concrete grey barracks to look more like a village.
“The refurbishment project has created the best possible environment. We can no longer talk about a suburb, because this doesn’t resemble a suburb. Jyrkkälä has become a separate micro town,” notes architect Kimmo Kuismanen at Case consult architects office, who was responsible for the design.
The Jyrkkälä project was driven by the ideology of sustainability, quality that will last long into the future.
Separate identity for each residential building
Each apartment block has been given a new façade, with rendering, ceramic tiles and Cor-Ten steel as the materials.
Jyrkkälänpolku wanted the new façades to be practical and easy to maintain. The extent of refurbishment varied from one block to another. In some blocks it was enough to just remove the old façade panels and apply new rendering, whereas in other blocks the insulation also needed replacing.
“The idea was to give every building a different look. Now everyone living in the area has their own personal residential block,” explains Kimmo Kuismanen.
The buildings were refurbished one block at a time. When the project was in full swing, it was thought it would be a good idea to give the façades more diversity. The plans were changed and three apartment blocks were given Cor-Ten steel façade panels, which can be done in the alliance model.
The idea to use Cor-Ten cladding came from architect Kimmo Kuismanen, who thinks a steel façade is an excellent solution for a shipbuilding city and highlights the city’s own identity.
”I was really excited when the architect suggested it. It’s well suited here since there used to be an ironworks in the vicinity and it’s part of Turku’s image. Cor-Ten is a great material, I took to it immediately at first sight,” enthuses Marjatta Roth.
Alliance model adapts for the better
Refurbishment of the area was carried out using the alliance model, where the customer, designer and residents get together to design the project, which can be changed if necessary. For example, if a better option for the façade comes to light, as was the case during the Jyrkkälä project, it can be changed mid project.
“The people taking part in an alliance model get together in various stages of the project to decide what to do next. Decisions are always based on needs, not assumptions. The model is hugely instructive to everyone involved,” says Kimmo Kuismanen.
According to Kuismanen, the alliance model is better suited to larger complexes like Jyrkkälä than individual ones. He notes that:
“Whereas the conventional project makes every effort to fulfil the agreement or do what has been agreed, the alliance model follows how the project progresses and learns along the way.”
Kimmo Kuismanen is convinced that the alliance model creates a better, more sustainable environment than that created using traditional methods of working. A project carried out using the alliance model is often more economical and its greatest advantage is flexibility. In addition to Cor-Ten, the flexibility of the model brought solar panels to Jyrkkälä even though initially these had been discounted as being too expensive.
“When we revisited the situation with solar panels are a later stage, the technology had improved and prices had fallen. Now two façades have been clad with solar panels. This would not have happened without the alliance model,” smiles Marjatta Roth.
Residents of the area took part in the design in Charrette workshops, where they expressed their views and hopes for the area.
“We collected tacit knowledge from residents, knowledge that we would not have accessed using conventional methods. Participation has almost certainly had a positive impact on resident satisfaction. What was unusual was that resident satisfaction improved already during the refurbishment, whereas the inconvenience normally causes it to fall,” notes Kimmo Kuismanen.
In Finland urban districts and suburbs should be modernized as a whole, not one building at a time. Kuismanen also points out that the success of the project was also helped by a good customer who was able to put together an alliance for the residents’ best.
“This was not just a matter of replacing façades. The aim was also to raise appreciation of the area and to improve resident enjoyment. The improved area has already increased residents’ own activity,” says Marjatta Roth.
”I enjoyed this project and the business model, which is the first of its kind in Finland. The appeal of the area has improved. There are more things to do and third-sector actors have also settled in Jyrkkälä. I’m already proud with what we have achieved,” says Kimmo Kuismanen.
Something unique was done at Jyrkkälä and paves the way for future alliance projects.
“This refurbishment project was prepared for a long time with great expectations. I can now say that we achieved our goals. Appreciation of the area has improved and residents are more satisfied. The project was also completed to schedule and within budget,” sums up Marjatta Roth.