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Weekly Mix: Architect Tuomas Silvennoinen

  • Architecture
  • China
  • Pekka Salminen
  • Tuomas Silvennoinen

Architect Tuomas Silvennoinen’s dream project would be to design a perfect summer cabin or a large hybrid building. Partner and Design Director at PES Architects, he has designed everything in between in both Finland and China.

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I have a collection of projects on my drawing table. I have large arena projects, a summer cabin, a daycare centre, a hotel in the centre of Helsinki and terminal buildings for the airport. The scope of this office is versatile. We are about 40 people in the Kalasatama office.

Helsinki Airport

Your office has worked on skyscrapers, multipurpose arenas, transport terminals and culture and art centres. Which of these has been the most fun to design? 

That is hard to say. I guess fun is not the most satisfying aspect of this work. Many projects involve nice people to work with. The requirements and possibilities make the project interesting. Regarding our completed projects, perhaps the Jätkäsaari ferry terminal was the most rewarding.

Your colleagues mostly work in Finland and in China. What is the biggest difference when designing for these two different countries?

The daily routine is different but design is pretty much the same. In Finland, everything is quite organized. We usually work according to familiar, explicit models. In China, surprising things happen, and sometimes they seem chaotic to us. Another difference is project size. Design is different in the sense that we have a Chinese partner who does the heaviest work, the execution planning, while we focus on conceptual design. In Finland we do the whole project on our own from beginning to end. That is a big difference.

Icon Yunduan. Photo: Kris Provoost

How is work divided between China and Finland?

We have three offices. My office is in Kalasatama. The other two offices are in Marjaniemi and Shanghai. We are more than 70 in total. In terms of the Finnish market, we are a large company, but in China we are very small.

At the moment Chinese projects are done in Marjaniemi and of course in Shanghai. In Marjaniemi, my partner Pekka Salminen works on many of the China projects. I’m more focused on domestic projects. My latest large project in China is the Icon Yunduan skyscraper, which was completed two years ago. I’ve designed housing, city villas, a club building, offices and hotels for China. Many types of buildings.

Which existing building would you have liked to design? 

Hard to say. I don’t really want to think about it because they’ve already been done. It is much more interesting to consider what hasn’t been done. There are so many fine buildings. I would have liked to design something as good if not them.

Länsiterminaali in Helsinki. Photo: Kari Palsila

Which non-existing building would you like to design? 

I’m interested in two extremes: a very small summer cabin or a very large hybrid building with many different functions. I’m interested in a building that provides people with an array of events and stimuli. A place in which to work, live the daily life and do the shopping. That type of a hybrid is of great interest to me.

The Icon Yunduan tower is something in that direction. Many multipurpose arenas tick many of my boxes. The core of the project is multifunctionality. The building is connected to many different functions in order to survive the periods outside the important matches or concerts. I have considered this in my work. It is a very interesting way to develop the city and its architecture.

Helsinki Garden.

Do you think there’ll be more of these buildings? 

Yes, I think it is a rising phenomenon. Just think of shopping centres, they are a dying concept as such. A functional shopping centre must include housing, culture, experiences, and services that cannot be bought electronically. I am absolutely certain there’ll be more of this type of projects.

What does music mean to you?

Music is always with me. That doesn’t mean I’m always listening to music. In fact, I mostly listen to talk shows and podcasts when driving. I follow the music scene based on my own interests and listen to a wide selection of styles. Streaming services make this possible. I like to explore them.

What kind of music is played in your office?

Sitting here in this booth and looking around me, I can see people wearing headphones and listening to their stuff. When there is a special moment, we do switch on the music for everybody. But background music is not in our culture.

Does music inspire you at work?

For decades, I’ve been fascinated by Bruce Springsteen and Johann Sebastian Bach. I’ll never get tired of them. There is plenty in between them, however. Perhaps this describes my scale. Bruce Springsteen’s newest album Western Stars is really good.

Icon Yunduan. Photo: Kris Provoost

If the Icon Yunduan skyscraper were a song, which song would it be? 

It would not be a song but weird ambient music. It would be a round, calm and a bit peculiar soundscape.

Tuomas will talk about their international projects at Helsinki Design Week’s free Experiencing Beijing event 9 September 16.30 at Sofia Future Farm. We welcome you to come and hear more!

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