The newly opened expansion of the Helsinki Airport by ALA Architects expands and modifies the existing airport which was built in multiple phases starting in the 1950s. The new 43,000 square meter departures and arrivals building comprises two distinct volumes; the first volume is defined by its wooden ceiling while the second volume is defined by its blue colour. Particularly striking is the dramatic roof that plays with concepts of lightness in combination with extreme weight.
Built to a BREEAM Excellent standard, the new building connects directly with the old Terminal and follows the conventional arrangement of separating the flows of departing and arriving passengers onto different levels. In addition to the departures and arrivals halls, the first volume contains a multi-modal travel centre, while the second includes areas for security control, customs, and baggage reclaim.
The roof’s steel structure, which is concealed within a ceiling made of prefabricated timber units, allows for a column-free departures hall and large overhanging entrance canopy. Flowing lines defined by the spruce boards that clad the ceiling enforce the feeling of fluidity and movement. But while giving a sense of lightness and flight, the roof’s massiveness is revealed when looking at the deep recess of the skylight that features in the middle of the check-in area.
The blue colour of the second volume continues from the exterior cladding to the building’s interior. Improving recognizability, the low-rise blue security control volume between the new departures hall and old terminal is recognizable from a distance. The colour is also used to indicate the check-in kiosks. It is noted that in addition to providing recognizability through colour, the use of blue is known to have a calming effect in the built environment.
Finally, located on the lower arrivals level, is the ‘Luoto’ nature diorama. Inspired by a combination of Finnish nature and Japanese garden art, Luoto is a freeform installation featuring living trees, shrubs, and stones in a large planter made of Cor-ten. Luoto can also be seen from the upper departures level through a diamond-shaped opening within the check-in area. The opening also allows light to filter to the arrivals floors and from this level also affords glimpses of the wood ceiling and blue sky above.