A wooden circular pavilion

Designed by Verstas Architects, the Helsinki Biennial Pavilion is made of wood, made of prefabricated modules, and has received the Architecture MasterPrize.

In 2021, the pavilion served as the entry point to the Helsinki Biennial art festival, which took place on Vallisaari island. The goal of Verstas Architecs’ design was to create a free, open space for everyone. The pavilion is circular in shape, which was inspired by the surrounding landscape. The principal designer of the pavilion, Jussi Palva, describes the design process: “The distinctive ponds of Vallisaari island, created by natural rocks, are unique. The ponds were formed during the ice age when the circular motion of the rocks carved bays on the cliffs when the ice melted. This round movement of rocks has created exiting forms that are the size of pond. These elements were our inspiration when designing the pavilion. Our aim was to bring a piece of the archipelago’s nature to the harbor.”

The pavilion is made of wood, a material traditionally used for buildings and boats in the archipelago. Built in a carpenter’s workshop in a small harbor town, the prefabricated modules for the pavilion were shipped by sea and loaded directly onto the site for installation. At first, the intention was to have the pavilion dismantled after each Biennial. This prompted the decision to make the pavilion with prefabricated wooden elements that can easily be moved around by ship. However, it was quickly decided that the pavilion could play a much bigger role if left to stand in place all year round.

The Architecture MasterPrize honours international designs in various disciplines of architecture. The Helsinki Biennial Pavilion was recognised in the Architectural Design – Cultural Architecture category.

Photos: Pyry Kantonen / Tuomas Uusheimo (via V2com)