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Finnish Architects in the Spotlight: Architects NRT

A bunch of laughing people in a park environment.

Architects NRT

The first Spotlight of the autumn will feature Architects NRT, known especially for their significant refurbishment projects. In addition to renovations, the firm's long portfolio includes a number of residential, educational and school buildings.

Text: Anna Rusi

Architects NRT are known for their persistent and recognised work both in Finland and abroad. Employing a total of 30 architects, interior architects and designers, the Helsinki-based office is currently led by partners Kari Raimoranta, Jyrki Tasa and Teemu Tuomi.

"Our work has always been about moving outside the mainstream; designing original, trend-free solutions on each project's own terms", says Raimoranta. The practice is passionate about particularly demanding projects, where the end result aims to be both innovative and responsible.

The firm's achievements include two Finlandia Architecture Awards: The Harald Herlin Learning Centre in 2017 in collaboration with JKMM Architects and the renovation of the Olympic Stadium in 2020 in collaboration with K2S Architects. On the international stage, NRT has twice been awarded the Europa Nostra Medal and has also twice been nominated for the Mies van der Rohe Award.

Their long experience has not only given the office confidence in its design work, but also taught them how to rethink in an ever-changing world. NRT's repertoire includes many alterations and renovations of buildings with great historical and architectural value, such as the main building of the Finnish Ministry of Defence, Porthania building and the main building of the Bank of Finland. Currently, NRT is working on a major refurbishment of the Finlandia Hall.

"One of the hardest things about learning something new is learning to let go of the old," says Tasa. "Our work is guided by the desire to design the built environment responsibly: respecting the old but also changing it." When it comes to refurbishments, a successful outcome means creating an illusion that nothing changed.

Architects NRT's public projects also include many university and educational buildings. Their first university projects were carried out in Turku: NRT was responsible for site development, renovation and extensions of the campus. One of the office's most recent projects is the new campus building of the South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences XAMK, designed in cooperation with AOR Architects. The building, currently under construction in Kotka Harbour, will be completed in 2024.

XAMK's new campus building brings disciplines and students together. photo: Architects NRT and AOR Architects

What has been both interesting and challenging at XAMK, according to the office, is the diversity of educational pedagogies and thus of the activities of the space layout. The building includes a wide range of functions, from a mini hospital with its ambulance hall and operating theatres to IT game labs, concrete and electrical automation laboratories and maritime simulation rooms. The building itself will also serve as a learning tool: for example, the use of building technology, backup power and solar energy will be monitored with students as part of the teaching.

In the Otaniemi campus area, NRT has been able to see and, in the case of architectural design, influence the transformation that has resulted from three simultaneous developments: the merger of three universities into Aalto University, the synergy between the university and the lower levels of education, and the change in the way teaching and learning is done.

The Harald Herlin Learning Centre transformed the old main library of the Helsinki University of Technology into a modern learning centre. The original library rooms on the upper floors, as shown in the photo, were maintained according to Alvar Aalto's original design. photo: Tuomas Uusheimo

The old main building of the Helsinki University of Technology (Alvar Aalto 1964, 1974) has been given a new start by Aalto University as the Undergraduate Centre. The renovation of the university building, which is an exceptionally valuable architectural work of art, was a demanding task. Architects NRT's aim was to convert the protected building to meet the universities' current needs for flexible working and accessibility.

"Creating flexible spaces retroactively without changing the original architecture is difficult. New building maintenance technology and safer escape routes require space that was not originally designed into the building. It needed careful adaptation and customisation", explains the office.

The aim of the refurbishment of the main building of the Helsinki University of Technology was to accommodate different user groups while preserving the original character of the spaces and architecture. photo: Tuomas Uusheimo

For Architects NRT, the most important thing is the atmosphere of the building site and the character of the building materials.

"Our projects are different from one another, and our office does not have a single style. Instead the design team creates the architecture and design principles for each project from its particular starting point", says Teemu Tuomi about the office's approach. Tasa sums up: "An architect's favourite project is always the one they are currently working on."

Read more about Architects NRT’s work on their site through this link.

Finnish Architects in the Spotlight invites architects or architectural practices to share their values and design principles through images and short texts. See NRT’s photo series on Instagram through this link.

All posts featured in the Finnish Architects in the Spotlight series can be found on Instagram by using the tag #FinArchSpotlight and all articles through this link.