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Finnish Architects in the Spotlight: Manu Humppi

Man with hiking gear in a forest.

Manu Humppi

When building beyond the uncharted paths into the wilderness, the designer is faced with unexpected challenges. Architect Manu Humppi specialises in wilderness architecture.

Exploring the great outdoors has always been a part of Manu Humppi’s life. During his architecture studies, the hiking expert became fascinated by Lapland’s wilderness huts and explored this tradition in his thesis at Tampere University of Technology. A few years later, he compiled the material into a book: Wilderness and turf huts in Finnish Lapland from history to present (2014). 

“My design focuses on respect for the Finnish wilderness and camping tradition, practicality, and functional details. Solutions must be functional for both the user and maintenance. Careful attention to detail plays an important role in the user experience.”

The Rautulampi wilderness hut complex, completed last summer in Urho Kekkonen National Park in Saariselkä, Northern Finland, has attracted a great interest. Some users have been puzzled by the modern appearance of the cottages, while others have come especially to admire them. 

“The impacts the structures have on the environment should be minimised. During use, wear of the environment is minimised by directing human activity to a limited area. However, the buildings themselves are not destinations for hiking. My intention is to provide a framework for enjoying nature and experiencing the landscape.”

As with the traditional wilderness huts, the main role of the new huts at Rautulampi is to provide shelter and accommodation for hikers but some new features have been added for comfort, such as a drying room for equipment. Naturally, the design solutions had to take into account weather resistance and natural conditions. In addition, the problem of building in the fragile wilderness conditions where construction is costly to carry out and materials cannot be transported by truck had to be tackled. The solution was to use prefabricated building components that could be transported by snowmobiles in winter.

“Hiking puts a strain on surfaces. Materials are exposed to both weather and user wear. In addition to sun, rain and wind, surfaces are strained by soot, dirt and the use of sharp tools. Surface materials must be able to withstand all of these. The structure must also be simple and clear to keep construction time and costs reasonable.”

Rautulammi wilderness hut in Saariselkä, Kaukaloistenkallio lean-in shelter in Tampere and Norppapolku lean-in shelter in Puumala. photos: Manu Humppi (1 and 3), Julia Kivelä

The Rautulampi huts and the lean-to of Kintulammi Nature Reserve designed by Humppi are part of the Nordic Design Atlas to be launched in May, showcasing design for nature tourism in the Nordic countries. The Atlas is part of the Design in Nordic Nature project, funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers and coordinated by Icelandic Design and Architecture, with Finland's contribution compiled by Archinfo Finland.

In addition to his own design projects, Humppi works as CEO of a Tampere-based architecture firm Vihanto & Co. In his Spotlight series, Humppi presents his projects in the Finnish nature and his design methods. See the full series on Archinfo’s Instagram account through this link.

All posts featured in the Finnish Architects in the Spotlight series can be found by using the tag #FinArchSpotlight.

On 7 April at 16:00, Manu Humppi takes part in a conversation on Design in Nordic Nature at the residence of the Ambassador of Iceland in Helsinki. Register and read more about the event through this link.