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Drawing consisting of a group of heads.
artwork: JKMM x Pan Jianfeng

Finnish Architects in the Spotlight: JKMM Architects

Starting from February, the people of Helsinki will be able to enjoy their newest cultural building, Dance House Helsinki. This year’s first Spotlight is directed at its designers, JKMM Architects, one of the most successful Finnish architectural practices of the recent decades.

The history of the origins of JKMM Architects is typical of the Finnish architecture field: a group of students wins an architectural competition and, for taking on the design task, establishes a company. In case JKMM the year was 1998, the competition was the Turku Main Library, and the authors of the winning entry were Asmo Jaaksi, Teemu Kurkela, Samuli Miettinen and Juha Mäki-Jyllilä.

Where the narrative differs from the typical is that the founding partners have stuck together and still today, almost 25 years later, run the office together. Later on, four more partners have joined the forces: architects Juho Pietarila, Teemu Toivio and Samppa Lappalainen, who acts as CEO, and interior architect Päivi Meuronen, who has left a strong and recognisable mark on many of the JKMM interiors.

Even today, the office eagerly takes part in architectural competitions. Asmo Jaaksi has said that JKMM indeed has quite a record in competition wins but the list of lost competitions is way longer. Nevertheless, JKMM has been awarded in more than a hundred competitions, fifty of which with first prize. Praised buildings have also resulted from direct commissions, such as one of our internationally most widely featured works of contemporary architecture, the Amos Rex Art Museum in Helsinki.

The most esteemed recognition in the Finnish architectural scene, the Finlandia Prize for Architecture, has been awarded since 2014 and several times JKMM’s buildings have been shortlisted, but it wasn’t until the Kirkkonummi Main Library Fyyri hit the home run that the prize found its way to JKMM. In the Spotlight series, JKMM features Fyyri alongside with Uniarts Helsinki and Helsinki University Think Corner under the theme ‘Knowledge’.

Three photos: Large stairs in a spacious cast concrete lobby pierced by diagonal, bridge-like flights of stairs.
Uniarts Helsinki, Fyyri library and Helsinki University Think Corner represent the theme ‘Knowledge’ in JKMM Architects’ Spotlight series. photos: Tuomas Uusheimo

Ingredients of happiness include culture, knowledge and wellbeing

The other two themes the office has chosen are ‘Culture’ and ‘Wellbeing’. Social responsibility and the aim to increase happiness in society are at the core of JKMM’s design philosophy:

Finland is the happiest country in the world. But where does happiness come from?

Traditionally we build societies only prioritising business and technology. Yet, this is only the base level. To thrive, communities need to aim higher, towards embracing Culture, Knowledge and Wellbeing. At the very highest level, the ultimate goal should be happiness. This is our goal when designing a sustainable society.

Architects have had an essential role in creating the infrastructure for happiness in Finland. We at JKMM Architects have been building Finnish happiness for almost 25 years.

With the Finnish Architecture and Design Days coming up in early February, it is good to remind ourselves of the impact that our strong legacy of modern architecture and design has on contemporary designers’ work, JKMM’s as well:

We believe it is important to continue the heritage of old Finnish masters like Alvar Aalto.

In their Spotlight series, JKMM presents their recent projects that take part in building the infrastructure of happiness. See the series on Archinfo Finland’s Instagram account @archinfo_finland or through this link (opens in new tab).

The aim of the Finnish Architects in the Spotlight series is to bring forth the creators of contemporary Finnish architecture. All the photo series published so far can be found on Instagram with the tag #FinArchSpotlight, and the stories behind them can be read on Archinfo’s site through this link.