The University of the Arts Helsinki’s Academy of Fine Arts and Theatre Academy facilitates a mutual exchange between students and community members through porous spaces.

Key features

JKMM Architects has transformed a preexisting building in Sörnäinen for the University of the Arts Helsinki’s Academy of Fine Arts and Theatre Academy. The main goal of the project was to give students of the fine and performing arts a carte blanche interior. ‘It was critical for us that the new spaces did not in any way limit what could be created within their walls but instead would inspire students to be bold and imaginative in pushing the boundaries of what they can achieve in the building,’ says JKMM Architects cofounder Asmo Jaaksi. ‘In reality, the spaces are only complete when the arts students occupy them and make them their own.’

In the five-storey, 13,000-sq-m building, the two academies are connected by a central Modernist silo building. The Theatre Academy provides dance and theatre facilities and is located in a former soap factory. The Academy of Fine Arts, named ‘Mylly’ – the Finnish word for mill – honours the previous state of the building with a red brick façade and deep-set windows that reflect the building’s industrial origins. On the ground floor is a public-accessible gallery – a crucial element in the design of the space to connect the institution and its surrounding community. An additional gallery space can be made on the rooftop terrace.

Frame’s take

The University of Arts Helsinki project focuses primarily on two aspects: creativity and community. Porous spaces such as the public gallery serve to connect the academic space to the greater community that surrounds it. This not only creates a stronger sense of community, but also helps students to find exposure and facilitates a mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and creativity between the university’s boundaries and beyond.

‘In the context of an increasingly globalized and interconnected world, universities are no longer seen as the primary knowledge producers,’ explains Julia Preece, professor at Durban University of Technology, and expert in adult education and community engagement, in a study on the porous universiyt. ‘As such, they should connect more collaboratively with other knowledge producers and other sources of knowledge. There is a growing understanding that the world’s challenges require collaborative solutions. . .universities cannot distance themselves from society and can no longer embrace their stereotypical "ivory tower" image.'