The Flooranaukio complex – literally ‘Flora Square’ – is in Arabianranta, an area of Helsinki undergoing heavy residential development, named after the famous Arabia porcelain factory founded here in 1874. For many years the largest porcelain producer in Europe, Arabia’s presence deeply influenced the nature of this location as well as the industrial history of the entire country, the firm becoming a symbol of Finnish design.
The design of this residential complex by Heikkinen Komonen builds on this tradition with the aim of paying homage to the area’s industrial history and the Arabia factories still operating today. To achieve this, the architects integrated art with architecture, while also complying with the local city planning authority, with Arabianranta the site of a multifaceted project involving the creation of artworks integrated with buildings and differently themed ‘art squares’.
The building façades overlooking the courtyard to the south are set with pieces of porcelain that form a floral motif based on the decorative work of the 1930s Arabia vase from which the complex takes its name. The differently coloured and shaped pieces of porcelain – actually recycled production waste – were incorporated into the pre-cast concrete at the time of casting. The colours of the porcelain are based on the shades of the various Arabia products currently in production. The glazing on both sides of the shards creates a lustre that reflects the sunlight, enhancing the whiteness of the courtyard with a multi-coloured sheen.
The holistic approach taken by the architects in the use of reinforced concrete, which they have successfully integrated with the decorative elements in a fluid and harmonious fashion, saw the Flooranaukio complex win the Finnish Concrete Award in 2011. The aspects of the design earning recognition include the way in which the elements of the curved façades have been combined with the dimensional precision of the various sections so as to create a balanced and coherent whole, distinguished by the white lime-based finish of the exposed prefabricated elements.
The curving line of the sparkling façades overlooking the courtyard, which establish a continuous line with the public gardens to the south, contrasts with the façades facing the street, which have red brick cladding with evenly spaced windows, reflecting the rationalism of the nearby old industrial buildings.