Pekka Helin: Enthusiasm, Passion, Understanding

Pekka Helin: Enthusiasm, Passion, Understanding

Pekka Helin, a member of the jury of the contest to transform LETI's spaces, spoke about the role of tradition and innovation in architecture and his student projects.

07.06.2021 257

The contest of young architects "LETI – Future Academic Spaces" has reached its crucial stage. The International jury has to choose the 20 best projects from the 223 submitted in the 4 nominations. LETI Student Council has shown LETI sites to more than 200 contestants from St. Petersburg universities.

Before the projects’ assessment stage, we took an interview with Pekka Helin, the Jury member, founder of Helin & Co Architects, one of the leading architectural offices in Northern Europe, recognized for its sustainable and inspiring architecture.

– Pekka, what are the main qualities, which you hope to find in the projects of young architects?

Enthusiasm, passion, understanding.

– What projects did you do when a student?

From the second year of my studies at Otaniemi (Aalto University), I also started permanent work. First city planning in regional planning, general planning, and detailed master planning in various organizations and offices. I also designed during my studies two small houses and a summer cottage for the friends of my parents. My diploma work was an entry in an open SAFA (Finnish Association of Architects) city planning competition, and I won the first prize.

Can you tell about the role of traditions vs innovations in the Helin & Co projects?

Tradition means understanding columns and beams, arches and vaults, walls and roofs. Why and how they are built, how they are varied and changed through the ages. What is the influence of proportions, articulation, and materials. The question is more of interconnected layers of ideas in the mind, not just concrete built fragments. 

Innovations are processed every day – that is the goal. In spatial composition, construction, plus-energy solutions, use of eco-friendly materials. This has been the practice for a long time.

– Traditional university learning is undergoing changes. What university spaces should stay the same, and which would you suggest for changes?

Entrance reflecting higher knowledge and wisdom of our time – not from the past. The core, the central space, not necessarily big – with identity and spirit, with surprising light and shadow. Revealing the presence of gravitation, the fundamental force in our art.

– What current projects of Helin & Co are related to culture and education? 

We work on Aalto University's multifunctional K3 unit, partly renovation, partly new building, and also Sello municipal library in Alberga Espoo, which we see as a meeting point of people and information, where people must be able to feel comfortable. Located in the shopping mall, the library has grown into a multifunctional cultural center. The neighboring Sello Chamber Music Hall completed the place, turning it into the gravitation center for locals and visitors.