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Aerial view of Helsinki Olympic Stadium. The white tower and the stadium field dominate the picture.
The Finlandia Prize for Architecture 2020 winner is Helsinki Olympic Stadium refurbishment. photo: Wellu Hämäläinen

For the third time, the Finlandia Prize for Architecture goes to a refurbishment – the 2020 winner is the Olympic Stadium

The architects in charge of the refurbishment of the Olympic Stadium are K2S Architects and NRT Architects. The winner was chosen by musician and actress Paula Vesala. In addition to the seventh Finlandia Prize for Architecture winner, the Finnish Association of Architects SAFA also announced the recipients of its other annual prizes. 

In 1933, Yrjö Lindegren and Toivo Jäntti won the architectural competition for Helsinki Olympic Stadium. Still today, the building and its tower form one of the most iconic landmarks in the city and is one of Finland’s most important Olympic buildings. The complex has a colourful history, which is now continued by the refurbishment designed by K2S Architects and  NRT Architects. 

This year, the Finlandia Prize for Architecture winner was selected by musician and actor Paula Vesala. With her choice she wishes to compliment the elegant conservation work of the Olympic Stadium and the designers’ sense of history.

“This national monument is not a mere statue to look at. What happens inside its walls creates special moments in our lives: moments of highlight, vigorous training, disappointments, sweat, ecstasy, victories and defeats. Efforts have been made to take into account the needs of a diverse group of users – that is, all of us – but on the terms of the old building. The magic of the Olympic Stadium is not only preserved: it has gained even more splendour,” says Vesala.

For the second time in a row, the Finlandia Prize for Architecture was awarded to a refurbishment – and to a building by the same original architect. Last year, the award went to the refurbishment of the Serpentine House (1951) in Käpylä, Helsinki, also designed by Yrjö Lindegren. Read more in our article (link). Architects NRT were awarded with the Finlandia Prize also in 2017, for the refurbishment of the Alvar Aalto designed library into Aalto University’s Harald Herlin Learning Centre.

In the same occasion, the Finnish Association of Architects SAFA announced the winners of its other annual prizes. The Wuorio Prize for young architects is awarded to the author of the best Master of Architecture thesis. The candidates were Lassi Luotonen, a graduate of Aalto University, with his design for a small wooden brewery building; Aki Markkanen of the University of Oulu with his retreat design for Utö island; and Olli Pasanen of the University of Tampere with his design for a flexible residential block in Alppila, Helsinki. The award judge Pekka Mäki chose Lassi Luotonen as the winner.

The Otto-Iivari Meurman Prize for urban design was awarded this year to Chief Architect Leo Kosonen, who has served with merit as a developer of urban planning theory and in practical work as an urban planner. The SAFA Prize 2020 was awarded to the City of Helsinki’s Re-thinking Urban Housing Program, which has contributed to the quality of housing design and construction. The award was received by Program Coordinator Riikka Karjalainen together with the program’s working group.

Finlandia Prize winner presents functional and experimental architecture 

The exceptionally large-scale task for the renovation of the Olympic Stadium included the refurbishment of the preserved stadium complex as well as the new multi-purpose halls and the canopy covering the stands. The architectural design was carried out by Kimmo Lintula, Niko Sirola and Mikko Summanen from K2S Architects and Kari Raimoranta, Teemu Tuomi, Tom Lindholm, Juuso Hatakka, Emmi Jääskeläinen, Jouni Karttunen, Tuula Olli and Kristiina Suoniemi from NRT Architects. Project architects were Juha Sundqvist (K2S) and Tom Lindholm (NRT).

“The renewed Olympic Stadium – a national monument in the heart of the city – presents durable, not expendable Finnish Olympic architecture. The challenge was to create a functional and immemorable entity, where new and old architecture, generated from different functional needs, complement each other down to the last detail,” say the project’s chief designers Kimmo Lintula and Kari Raimoranta. 

In addition to the Helsinki Olympic Stadium refurbishment, this year’s finalists for the Finlandia Prize for Architecture 2020 were K-Kampus head office in Helsinki by JKMM Architects, Toritalo Housing in Kotka by Jani Prunnila Architects and Aalto University campus complex in Espoo by Verstas Architects.

Explore the Finlandia Prize for Architecture 2020 finalists on the Finnish Architecture Navigator.

Wooden canopy curving over the stands. In the front, a white-rendered wall with section and row numbers.
The exceptionally large-scale task of the refurbishment of the Olympic Stadium also included new canopies. photo: Wellu Hämäläinen

Finlandia Prize for Architecture and the pre-selection jury

The annual Finlandia Prize for Architecture is awarded for a building, a group of buildings or a renovation completed during the last three years. Each year an influential person whose merits are from other fields but architecture is invited to select the winner from the pre-selected shortlist. The purpose of the Finlandia Prize for Architecture is to increase the value of creative, high-class architecture and to highlight its significance for culture and well-being.

This year’s pre-selection jury consisted of Professor Tuomo Siitonen, architect Simo Freese, architect Teemu Hirvilammi and architect, Professor of Practice and Humanitarian Architecture Saija Hollmén. Secretary General of the Finnish Association of Architects Paula Huotelin acted as jury secretary.

The Finlandia Prize for Architecture is awarded annually in Helsinki on World Architecture Day. This year on 5 October, the award ceremony was held as an online event.