Martino De Rossi: Helsinki provides space for experimentation

Martino De Rossi

I was attracted not only by their simplicity but also their cosiness: in Finland, a lot of attention is paid to interiors and homes, since a lot of time is spent indoors.

Italian architect Martino De Rossi fell in love with Finnish wood construction. For his Collaboratorio architecture studio, Helsinki is a great place for pilot projects involving sustainable construction methods.

Back in Italy, I had always done a lot of woodwork with my father. At an architecture workshop in Venice, Anna-Maija Ylimaula, Professor at the University of Oulu, gave a talk about log houses in Oulu that really caught my attention. I was attracted not only by their simplicity but also their cosiness: in Finland, a lot of attention is paid to interiors and homes, since a lot of time is spent indoors.

I started looking for jobs in Finland, but the answer was always the same: you don’t speak Finnish. So in 2014, I decided to move to Helsinki and initially studied the language for two months in intensive courses at the University of Helsinki. It was a really good summer; I cycled every day from Pakila through the Keskuspuisto central park to the centre and went swimming at the Swimming Stadium before classes. I thought Keskuspuisto was really beautiful, and everything was so well maintained. The Finnish summer may be short, but Finns make the most of it!

I immediately felt that this was my place

Helsinki is not just a city of stone, there are trees and parks and spaces where there is no one. If you want the forest, you get the forest; if you want the sea, you get the sea.

Helsinki is a really good place to do creative work. It provides space for experimentation. Our studio is trying to use the city’s old heritage as a model, such as its solid brick and wood construction. Finland has experts in these areas, as well as investors who believe in it. For example, we have designed a solid brick building in Jätkäsaari that will house an international kindergarten.

A smaller project has been our convertible Cubile bed, and we are working on more wooden furniture in collaboration with the same carpenter. I like doing things with my own hands – we even made the floor of our office out of rammed earth. We are also currently investigating industrial clay construction.

Here everyone can create their own centre

The architecture in Helsinki has many historical layers: old solid brick buildings stand side by side with functionalist and 1960s architecture. This is very visible in Punavuori, for example. Helsinki lacks a clearly identifiable old town or medieval centre, such as in Stockholm. Italian visitors often ask, where is the centre? This is interesting because it means that here everyone can create their own centre. For me, it is Kruununhaka or Vallila.

In Helsinki you can get everywhere by car, while in Italy there are many pedestrian streets. Fortunately, pedestrian culture is becoming more prevalent here as well. Terraces are becoming more common and street space is being better utilised all the time.

I live in the Nelikulma building in Vallila that dates back to 1923 and has a lovely courtyard with grilling areas, a laundry room, saunas and carpentry workshops. This solid block connects its residents. The culture of sharing is exotic to me and a really great thing that unfortunately cannot be found in today’s Italy.

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