LMA celebrates the 30th anniversary of winning the architecture competition for the Finnish Forest Museum

The architecture competition for the Finnish Forest Museum was concluded 30 years ago. ‘Open Design Competition for the Finnish Forest Information Centre’ started in 1990 and ended in June 1991. The 1st prize in the competition was awarded to an entry called ‘Lusto’, whose authors were Rainer Mahlamäki, Ilmari Lahdelma and Juha Mäki-Jyllilä.

This was a breakthrough work for Rainer Mahlamäki and Ilmari Lahdelma, but it was also a great success for the entire 8 Studio, the architecture office of which they were partners: of the seven prizes awarded in the competition, a total of five were awarded to the people involved in 8 Studio.

In the Jury Report of the competition, Lusto is described as an intimate yet sympathetically monumental entry that is considerate of its surroundings. The Jury considered the entry’s strongest asset to be its distinctive and expressive interior space with its long views.

Lusto, which also became the name of the Museum, is set in the scenic national landscape of Punkaharju, Finland, by a lake and forest. The building is characterised by its cylindrical part, which can be seen as a pure geometric form that stands out in the nature or as a giant stump rising up on a slope. It houses exhibition and public spaces, while spaces for work, research and storage are housed in a separate rectangular part.

The Museum gradually reveals itself to the visitor. The building is approached by descending a slope, along a forest path and a narrow bridge, which gives a ceremonial feel to entering the Museum. The building materials are concrete and wood. Bare, solid concrete serves as a neutral backdrop for the wooden exhibits and architectural details, emphasising the nuanced nature of wood. A subtle hierarchy has been created by using different wood materials: larch in the exhibition spaces, while pine dominates the everyday workspaces. The interior of the building is characterised by a dialogue between the exhibition spaces and views on the surrounding landscape, between low and high spaces, and between different forms. The spaces are austere, but they differ from the usual museum space in their prominent use of bare wood and concrete.

The design phase started immediately after the competition and the building was completed in 1994. Since then, an extension designed by Lahdelma & Mahlamäki architects has also been built, which was completed in 2008. Lusto has received much international attention and has been featured in the world's most important architectural publications, for example, Architectural Review and Detail magazines, as well as in Kenneth Frampton's renowned book Modern Architecture.

Lusto has been instrumental in stimulating the development of timber construction in Finland. As a forest-related but concrete-framed building, it raised the question of why similar buildings could not be built of wood under the legislation in force at the time.

"Lusto was the first building in Finland in a really long time where building materials themselves were an integral part of the architecture, rather than being covered up with plaster or tiles, for example. This phenomenon is still strongly visible in Finnish architecture today," says Professor Rainer Mahlamäki.

Key information
  • Location: Punkaharju, Finland
  • Total area: 4 400 m2
  • Competition organiser: the Finnish Forest Museum Foundation, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland, the municipality of Punkaharju
  • Authors of the entry: Rainer Mahlamäki, Ilmari Lahdelma, Juha Mäki-Jyllilä
  • Assistants: Juha Luoma, Mikko Kaira, Mauri Korkka, Minna Lahdelma, Pekka Lassila, Markus Seppänen