The purpose of the sensitivity study was to investigate suitable infill building for Vänmanninsaari, a nationally valuable cultural environment where an existing library and a theater are located. Three alternatives were studied for the site, including an assessment of impacts. The alternatives try to interpret the ideas and urban features of Marjatta and Martti Jaatinen’s winning competition entry for the area in 1962, whilst also considering the changed urban environment.

In the first alternative, a 22-story tower hotel and its two-story pedestal are located on the island. The pedestal contains a restaurant and the lounges and maintenance of the hotel. Opposite the hotel is a five-story hybrid building, which consists of a public event space, office space and an apartment hotel. In the second alternative, a lower, 14-story tower and the associated pedestal are placed on Vänmanninsaari. The tower is a hybrid building and has open and public functions, such as a cafe, a restaurant, lecture halls, teaching facilities, administration, and offices. A one-story, round pavilion building and an outdoor amphitheater are located next to the tower. Lower construction has been studied in option C. In the plan, an open five-story cultural center with spaces for events, meetings and exhibitions is placed on the island. In addition, a two-story cafe pavilion will be located on the island. Public urban space is formed on the island, and it is surrounded by arcade structures.

As a conclusion of the report, we found that considering the cityscape, it is possible to add new buildings on Vänmanninsaari to complement the existing buildings. However, the new additions must form a harmonious entity, which embodies the same visual tranquility and human scale as the pre-existing cultural facilities. The functions of the new buildings should further strengthen the public character of the island. Activities of private nature, or activities that restrict free moving and use in all parts of the island, should not be allowed. The role of the island must be studied as a significant end of the main axis when approached from the city center, but also as the center of a series of spaces that form the coastline of the surrounding islands and the mainland.

As a final note, we think that nothing should be planned for Oulu’s market area and its immediate vicinity without a one- or two-stage open architectural competition, in which decisions are based only on architectural quality. To quote Vitruvius, “firmness, commodity and delight”. Economic “realities” change from year to year, high-class architecture and urban planning, on the other hand, do not.



Oulu, Finland


City of Oulu



Responsible designer

Trevor Harris, Hannu louna

Project architect

Elina Jaara