LUT University (Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology LUT) is a science university specialising in technology and economic research and teaching. A university of applied science and a university of technology operate out of the same building in Lappeenranta. The main building dating from the 1970s serves as the heart of the institution and was regenerated in a refurbishment project carried out in 2016-2018.
“The building underwent a complete refurbishment with only the building frame left standing and the premises were both modified and extended at the same time. Refurbishment also applied to the façade,” says architect Piia Viitanen from Tampere-based architects Aihio Arkkitehdit. Piia Viitanen headed the design planning for the building.
Ruukki supplied the Cor-Ten rainscreen panels used in the façades of the refurbished main building at LUT University.
New respecting old
The building was refurbished to bring it into line with 21st century needs, which meant doing away with the labyrinthine, strictly 3-5 storey structure. The premises inside the building now vary in height and the building has been transformed from being dominated by corridors to more sophisticated premises. Facilities, natural meeting places for people in the same way as market squares in towns have been created inside the building.
The building surroundings and nature were also brought into the building by creating open vistas towards Lake Saimaa, the unrivalled gem in the local landscape.
“Refurbishment can often lead to excellent results. In healthy buildings, refurbishment is both a more economical and ecological option than demolition and newbuild,” says Piia Viitanen.
For the sake of use not form
The building was designed for its users, with students and university staff participating in joint design meetings held every other week.
Pia Viitanen says that the main idea was to create an ecologically sustainable campus, where community spirit and functions support each other and foster creativity. This is also the ultimate purpose of an educational institution. A building is not just walls, roofs, floors and other structures, but also a forum that brings intelligent and talented people together to share information and to create new ideas.
“The practical criterion was that the premises must be multipurpose. For example, the laboratory premises were designed to be used both by students from the university of applied sciences and the technical university. Another example is that when the serving lines in the refectory are closed, the dining room can be put to other uses,” explains Piia Viitanen, giving practical examples of the multiple use of the building.
The materials and solutions used for the building give it an ecological label. Wood has been used in the building, the building is low energy, there are solar panels on the roof and some of the carpets have been woven from fishing nets abandoned at sea.
Cor-Ten connects old and new
The building façade was partly renovated leaving the original brick cladding visible. Cor-Ten rainscreen panels supplied by Ruukki were used as a new façade material, which was chosen from a number of different options. The idea was to give the building a bold individual look.
“Cor-Ten is a genuine and straightforward material and goes well with the building. By using it, we respected the building’s old brick cladding. Next to the old, we introduced new material which is very modern and makes no attempt to imitate old material and looks,” says Piia Viitanen.
Piia Viitanen thinks Cor-Ten is an excellent material in refurbishment projects. It goes well with brick and concrete alike. It’s also an ecological choice since it requires no surface treatment or maintenance during the course of time.
“Cor-Ten is my favourite material, it changes, acquires a patina, is beautiful and its details can be finely realised. It increases the value of a building,” enthuses Piia Viitanen.
The tone indicated by Cor-Ten continues inside the building, since a team headed by Piia Viiin was commissioned to design furnishings, in which copper reflects the spirit of Cor-Ten.
Time for planning not cramming in details
The Cor-Ten panels Ruukki supplied for the main building of LUT University flexed around 35 different details. Architect Piia Viitanen says that this was only possible through very smooth collaboration.
“I’m very pleased with the support we received from Ruukki, it made our job easier,” commends Piia Viitanen adding that:
“Best of all is that the users of the building are pleased. I’ve heard students mention about the superb premises they’ve got. I’m extremely glad at such direct comments.”