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MADETOJANKUJA, HELSINKI

Madetoja Service Center for Elderly People

Pukinmäki, Helsinki, 2005, 2016

The Madetoja Service Center for Elderly People was previously known as the Pukinmäki retirement home, designed by architect’s office Esko Hyvärinen in 1978. The Pukinmäki district in Helsinki has always been very uniform in its visual appearance. The reddish facade made of square prefabricated building units with exposed-aggregate finish were commonplace in the 1970s. Helsinki City had the rental residential buildings in the area renovated and re-clad with brick. The external claddings of the privately owned residential houses in the district have retained their original outlook.

The center is divided into an open plan service section on the ground floor and several residential floors. As the extension allowed the use of a greater ceiling height than in the old building, the assembly hall and dining area were placed here. The lobby, inter-connecting the yard and pedestrian path, and the new large lift with its landing were built on the border between the extension and the old section. The first floor in the old section houses an enhanced-care group home for physically ailing residents while the second and third floors comprise ordinary sheltered housing units. The two top floors are reserved for people with memory disorders. The second floor was altered as a group apartment 2016.

The renovation and extension of the sheltered housing centre were not a self-evident option at any point during the design and planning process. However, a decision was made to renovate the structure despite the extensive repairs required. The main arguments for renovation were that the project could be completed in less time than a new building and the existing housing units – smaller than required under current standards – were more suited for the residents’ income levels.

The facades posed a complex challenge in terms of design. The easiest way of providing additional thermal insulation would have been to install an extra cladding onto the existing building envelope. However, the structural designer determined that the piling in the foundations had been optimized to such a fine degree of accuracy that it would not support any additional weight. The demolition of the old facade offered new opportunities.

When these suburbs were built – a few decades ago – a brick facade was gradually reduced to a grid of prefabricated building units with an exposed-aggregate finish. Due to the practically complete absence of balconies, simplicity of design in this area had been brought to an extreme. ‘Reintroducing’ brick and balconies in the facades felt like natural resuscitation at this point in the lifecycle of the buildings. Now the string-like balconies with brick-slab facing are reminiscent of the optimistic spirit prevailing at the time when the area was developed.

The Madetoja Service Center for Elderly has been published The Finnish Architectural Review Arkkitehti 3/2009

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