0 of 0 for ""

Fourth award for the demanding renovation of the Helsinki Olympic stadium

The extensive and innovative renovation and renewal project of the stadium with significant cultural and historical value has received several awards over the past year. The latest recognition is the RIL Prize 2020 awarded to the Olympic Stadium project by the Finnish Association of Civil Engineers (RIL) on 26 November 2020.

The refurbished Helsinki Olympic Stadium was opened to the public in August 2020. The renovation of the functionalist building completed in 1938 was a major project, in which the culturally and historically significant stadium was updated to meet the needs of a modern sports and event venue.The project that began in 2013 was exceptionally extensive. In addition to renovating the preserved section of the stadium, the project included new construction of additional parts and covering the curved stands. Managing Director Jaakko Yli-Säntti from Sweco Expert Services explains that the project included demanding construction using wood, steel and concrete alike. Another challenge was that the Olympic Stadium is protected and supervised by the National Board of Antiquities.“The Olympic Stadium is a national monument. The renovation modernised structures designed and built up to 80 years ago. The repair construction was extremely demanding, but the end result is a success. The site is a masterpiece of hybrid skill in structural engineering. It warms my heart to see that, in addition to the project organisation, the wider field has recognised the value of our project,” Yli-Säntti says.

Despite the challenges, the final result is a success that has received several awards this year: the Steel Structure of the Year award, the Finlandia Prize for Architecture, the Finnish Wood Award and most recently the RIL Prize.

“This fine recognition belongs to everyone who worked on the Olympic Stadium refurbishment. The complex whole emphasised the high-quality cooperation between different operators. The RIL Prize is an excellent continuation to the other three awards the project has already received,” says Project Manager Jukka Ala-Outinen from Skanska.

Yli-Säntti feels that the project would not have been possible without the best professionals in the field and active cooperation between all parties – the client, the designer, the contractor and the National Board of Antiquities.

Implementing the values of sustainable development

Building a completely new multipurpose arena outside the city centre could perhaps have been cheaper than renovating the old stadium. Yli-Säntti emphasises, however, that it was not just a question of costs, but of values of sustainable development and cultural history.

The Olympic Stadium is a national monument. To an outsider it may even seem as though hardly anything has changed. The new curved canopy is in place and the stadium tower – one of Helsinki’s most iconic landmarks – remains unchanged. You would not believe that new, modern facilities are hidden under the stadium.

Sustainable development was acknowledged in the Olympic Stadium refurbishment through preserving construction and energy efficiency in particular. The project aimed to avoid unnecessary demolition and repair and preserve as much of the existing structures as possible. The surrounding infrastructure was preserved, which meant that very little new infrastructure was needed.

“We wanted to extend the stadium’s life cycle. Some structures have already persevered for 80 years and can now last several decades more,” Yli-Säntti states.

As musician Paula Vesala, who selected the recipient of the Finlandia Prize for Architecture, stated: “The magic of the Olympic Stadium has not only been retained, it is now more spectacular than ever.”

The refurbishment of the Olympic Stadium has already received several awards

RIL Prize 2020

The Finnish Association of Civil Engineers (RIL) rewards a construction work, project or concept that best represents innovative, high-quality Finnish engineering skill and competence.

“The site has demanded a great deal of skill in coordinating both new and old materials as well as technologies. The project has utilised innovative working methods and combined skills from different fields. The planning and management of the project have also been exceptionally challenging,” states President of Sitra Jyrki Katainen, who chose the winner.

Steel Structure of the Year 2019

The winning construction project, completed during the past year, must have high-quality architecture and use steel and other metals in creative ways during the construction.

The Olympic Stadium received the award especially for the architecturally and structurally excellent implementation of the new canopies. The shape and slightness of the canopy structure was enabled by the impressive and demanding steel structures.

Finlandia Prize for Architecture in 2020

The purpose of the prize is to promote the appreciation of high-quality architecture and highlight the importance of architecture in generating cultural value and increasing well-being.

“As you explore the newly renovated spaces, you find yourself pausing to admire the attention paid to even the smallest detail, the materials carefully chosen for the newly created facilities and the stunning historic structures like the original stands, the preservation and refurbishment of which alone represent an architectural feat of truly heroic proportions. The new structures complement the Olympic Stadium but do so subtly and unobtrusively, elegantly highlighting its original and more recently added features,” Paula Vesala said in her award speech.

The Finnish Wood Award 2020

The award is given annually as encouragement to a building, interior design or structure that represents high-class Finnish wood architecture or uses wood in a manner that promotes the structural technology.

The renovation of the Olympic Stadium is an excellent example of hybrid construction where wood plays a central role. The award jury stated that the renovation and renewal project of the building with significant cultural and historical value has used wood in an innovative and varied way as a rich and impressive part of the site’s architecture.