Location: Helsinki, Finland
Type: Academic, Competition
Structure: Concrete, Steel
Team: Jim Stoddart, Stephen Ullman, Alejandro Stein, Isidoro Michan, Mark Hernandez
The strategy of context estrangement can work at the level of a handheld object, but also at the level of a masterplan. In the proposal for the Aalto University New Campus Center, a similar idea was developed for a large portion of a campus plan. The New Campus Center consists of facilities for the student and faculty to gather, eat, and orient new visitors to the university. It also consists of two large buildings housing the schools of design and the university administration. The project took these competing visions for the project to develop a masterplan that was simultaneously a gateway, a void, and an object. The project builds off of the strong entry axis that leads to the site. The axis passes right between and then under a twin symmetrical bar buildings. These two long bars house the schools of design and the university administration programs respectively. They also hold back a designed increase in tree vegetation that intensifies the clearing of the central plaza, which gathers all the pathways of the campus into a bundled knot defining a new center in the sunken public plaza. The two bars are symmetrical until they approach the historic amphitheater building designed by Alvar Aalto. At this moment one of the bars shortens, deforms, and cantilevers. This site strategy shifts the understanding of the existing campus. Instead of focusing the axis on the Aalto building to reinforce its importance as a landmark, the axis is shifted off to imply that the Aalto building is in the wrong place. The Aalto building becomes the cause of the break and deformation of the symmetry, implying that the campus made more sense before its arrival, even though it is the original heart of the university itself. This is an instance of a counter factual scene, a "what if" question, that allows the reality of the context to be seen in a different, unfamiliar manner, and through this aesthetic redistribution imply the political that follows all planning work. It should be noted that this planning proposal does not diminish the importance of the existing Aalto building. If anything, one now notices it more, as it seems to be the strangest condition in the site.
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