By Roberto Lucchese
To meet the increasingly stringent environmental requirements of Finnish industrialized construction, the E2 Ecology & Economy timber development competition aims to find a conceptual design solution for large-scale production of wooden multi-story buildings. A 15.000 m2 prefabricated wooden development in Kouvola, Finland will serve as a showcase for replicable and locally adaptable cost- and energy efficient housing. BIG’s proposal PUU-BO is today announced as one of two winning entries of the two-staged invited competition totaling 26 international proposals.
Wood as construction material brings a double benefit: remarkably reduced emissions in its production and fabrication and improved energy efficiency of the buildings where it is used. Currently, only a fragment of multi-story buildings utilize timber construction in Finland, a country known for its timber production. BIG’s PUU-BO is a comprehensive prefab solution designed to be both extremely flexible and materially efficient. PUU-BO’s conception as a system based on best practices and not predefined standard elements, gives it an embodied intelligence and ensures its viability for the future. The system’s easy adaptability to a variety of building typologies and uses, opens up new possibilities for prefabricated wood systems beyond the residential market – the very same elements in the residential pilot project could be used in an office building or even a wood skyscraper with no loss in material efficiency.
A site with generous views towards public green areas and the city’s river has been specifically selected for this pilot project by the city of Kouvola. The location allows the volume of the proposed building to push from one side to the other side to integrate the park and parking along the development. BIG’s proposal follows the contours of the landscape creating semi-private pockets directly connected to the park while the height of the building is manipulated to peak towards the open areas. The pockets are surrounded by lower housing creating an intimate space where all units are connected to the ground. The areas with the best views have the most floors and the most apartments while all roofs are partially accessed by the penthouse apartments and all units at ground floor have access to private gardens to both sides.
BIG’s E2 proposal combines a variety of housing typologies – from 8-story apartment buildings to low townhouses with a shared courtyard space. Along both sides of the building a pedestrian path connects the private gardens to parking and park. The path blends with the existing network, integrating the building with the park, river and city. Playgrounds, sports fields, and a community sauna in the river are strategically placed in order to activate the site. All activities are available to both the PUU-BO inhabitants as well as the citizens of Kouvola.
“Le Corbusier’s DOMI-NO system was developed to industrialize construction with the new technologies of concrete structures, and improve living conditions for the many. Decades later concrete housing has become synonymous with boxy and boring. By crossbreeding state of the art building technology and wood construction PUU-BO provides endless variability with infinite renewability” Bjarke Ingels, Founder and Partner, BIG.