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Finnish Architects in the Spotlight: Nomaji

Four women portraying

Erica Nyholm / Nomaji

Recent recipient of the State Prize for Architecture, the versatile landscape architecture firm aims to create living environments inspired by nature.

Nomaji Landscape Architects was awarded the 2023 State Prize for Architecture in November in recognition of its distinguished and pioneering work in the fields of high-quality landscape architecture, regenerative design and holistic sustainability. Landscape architecture has been taught in Finland since 1989 in its own curriculum, and over the past decades the field has emerged as an elemental part of the design of the built environment. Nomaji is the first landscape architecture firm to be awarded the State Prize for Architecture.

Founded in 2015 by Anni Järvitalo, Varpu Mikola, Mari Ariluoma and Riikka Nousiainen, the firm's design work includes large-scale production of everything from park and courtyard designs to green structure plans for entire cities. In Archinfo's Spotlight, Nomaji highlights three themes in the values that guide its operations and the specific characteristics of its designs: learning environments, nature-based design and building for climate adaptation.

"We founded Nomaji eight years ago, and our goal from the beginning was to make the role of landscape architects more central to the design of comfortable and prosperous urban spaces and to solving major environmental challenges," says Executive Director Anni Järvitalo.

Nomaji ranta
In 2019–2020, principles for sustainable coastal development were defined for Vartiokylä. These included nature values, landscape and recreational values, changing climate and land use needs. photo: Nomaji

Nomaji's designs aim to holistic sustainability, starting from caring for the environment and creating societal value. Identifying and developing the values of a landscape is the foundation for a sustainable and resilient environment. For example, land use changes in coastal areas and improving the quality of micro-waters require new approaches that take into account extreme climatic events and contribute to maintaining nature's biodiversity.

"Land use and construction have far-reaching effects on our living environment. Climate change and biodiversity loss are major challenges that we can tackle by improving our design practices and methods," say the partners. "Bold vision, practical solutions and visualisation of information can help us address complex issues in an understandable way."

The office's main source of inspiration is northern nature, which they interpret in the built environment for example through dynamic flora and biotope-based design.

"Nature-based design can maintain and foster a range of ecosystems and biodiversity, especially in places where people live and circulate – in cities and other built environments. Green spaces act as micro-ecosystems that provide habitats for different species of plants and animals, contributing to urban biodiversity," the partners explain.

Nomaji kasvillisuus
Completed in 2020, the courtyard of the Scandic Grand Central Hotel forms a secret garden in the middle of an urban block for hotel guests to experience and enjoy. photo: Caroline Moinel

In addition to the well-being of nature, Nomaji's designs are always based on the needs of the community.

"We design functionally diverse and beautiful outdoor spaces that bring joy to their users. Children and the elderly are particularly important target groups, and the quality of outdoor spaces has a significant impact on their physical activity and health."

Alku is a child-friendly design methodology developed by Nomaji, based on a wide range of experience in designing learning environments and urban environments. A child-friendly environment is versatile, interesting, safe and healthy for all. It also takes a holistic approach to sustainability. The Alku method is based on three design principles: enabling contact with nature, supporting spontaneous movement and providing learning opportunities throughout the urban environment.

Nomaji's partners sum up their design philosophy in one sentence: "Our aim is to create a high-quality habitat for people and other species alike."

Nomaji oppimisympäristöt
The summer streets of Helsinki brought the forest to the city in 2022. photo: Inka Norros

Read more about Nomaji'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 Nomaji'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.