Ville Hara with
HUT Wood Studio

Lookout tower

Helsinki, Finland

December 2003
Helsinki Zoo is on Korkeasaari, one of the forested islands that stud the massive and wonderfully picturesque Helsinki harbour. It houses a remarkable collection of animals most kept, as one might expect in such a civilized country, in large enclosures in which they can roam about with some semblance of freedom. Curiously, the only creatures that are clearly confined in a cage are humans.
The cage for humans is a 10m high look-out tower designed by Ville Hara, then a student in the Wood Studio at Helsinki University of Technology (AR September 2003). Hara won a competition set by the zoo and Wood Focus Finland, and he came to the form following a careful study of the site and its potential. The gazebo had to command the wonderful panorama of sea, island and city skyline, and at the same time respond to its immediate surroundings: a small birch grove to the east, the steep west-facing slope of the ibex enclosure going down to the sea, and an existing low surrounding wall.
Hara decided to make a form that bulged gradually towards the city to allow visitors to take in the panorama as they climb and to preserve the birches behind. The object proved initially to be very difficult to draw. So he made a model in plasticene. Digital images of the model were then used to make conventional drawings. From that, a one-to-five scale model was generated, in which the complexities of bending and the joints could be investigated. Then, full-sized individual members of laminated spruce could be created to see how they would behave in practice.
The Korkeasaari building, with more than 600 bolted joints, was created by eight students over some three months in the summer of 2002. Dry weather necessitated steaming the 72 component laminated battens to seven shapes determined by previous experiments. All wood components are treated with linen oil and all steel elements are galvanized. The gazebo should last for generations. It is structurally like an eggshell, so it can withstand local damage and alteration (for instance the rectilinear entrance door).
The jury was very impressed by the thoroughness of the creation of the little structure, its understanding of materials, and its generous response to location, both as a part of the harbour panorama, and as an observer of it. P. D.

Ville Hara with HUT Wood Studio, Helsinki
Jussi Tiainen