Kastelli School and Community Centre, Oulu, Finland


Location: Oulu, Finland

Year: 2014

Size: 24,600m²

Programme: Comprehensive school, upper secondary school, adult education facilities, youth centre and sports halls




 - Integrates different disciplines and age groups

 - All ages can mix and learn in open corridors and free-form lounges

 - Subject specific classrooms are based around mixed discipline, open spaces

 - LEED for Schools Gold, the first in Northern Europe

 - Designed in close collaboration with pedagogy experts 

 - The sports facilities advanced enough to host national sports league matches




The Finnish education system is repeatedly highlighted as being world-leading and Kastelli School and Community Centre has frequently been the face for this reputation. The Finnish realise how integration and shared learning is key to a successful education. One of the reasons for Kastelli’s success is how the spaces throughout the centre allow children of all age ranges to congregate in the various open corridors or free-form lounge spaces and lobbies – whether whilst working or socialising. In true but exemplary Finnish tradition, the building boasts impressive sustainability and technical records. The project attained a LEED for Schools Gold rating as well as the RIL (Finnish Association of Civil Engineers) Prize 2014 and was shortlisted for the MIPIM Award for “Best Innovative Green Building”.


Due to its complexity the project was scheduled as a two-phase design competition. Despite this, Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects succeeded in creating a design which integrated what could have been a massive public building, comfortably into the modest sized village. The scale of such a project was also brought back to that of the primary users, children. Playful use of colours and shapes played an important role in the aesthetics of the design. The schoolyards contain a landscaped environment with large yards, small niches, noise protection from the street and a playful environment for children of all ages to enjoy. The educational environment was designed in close collaboration with pedagogy experts, something which is recurring in Lahdelma & Mahlamäki’s designs and consistent with the Finnish approach to education; both legally and socially. Their innovation comes from research-heavy collaborations with specialists.


Programmatically and technically the building not only caters for the school, but also for the local and national communities. The project includes a comprehensive school, an upper secondary school and a library. Also within the building are educational facilities for adults and a youth centre. A series of sports halls cater for various athletic clubs and teams. The largest sports hall has 800 seats and amongst other things plays host to matches for the national volleyball league.


Throughout Lahdelma & Mahlamäki’s educational projects an emphasis has been put on specialised facilities based around open social and work spaces, allowing for both individual and shared research. This has been extensively shown in projects such as Exactum and Physicum - buildings designed for the Department of Physical Sciences of Helsinki University - which base research facilities, subject teaching rooms, laboratories and the like, around social spaces in which students from various subjects can collide in a shared learning experience. Kastelli takes this idea and brings the scale down for the younger generation. More traditional classrooms are situated around open corridors in which small pockets provide areas for cross-curricular learning. Kastelli puts its emphasis on teaching the younger generation’s life and social skills through constructing a physical and social landscape to help integration across subjects and age groups.




RIL (Finnish Association of Civil Engineers) Prize 2014

Finalist, MIPIM "Best Innovative Green Building" 2015




Joensuu Primary School, Joensuu, 2006

ICT Building, Turku, 2006

Exactum, Helsinki, 2006

Jyväskylä Primary School, Jyväskyä, 2002

Physicum, Helsinki, 2001



Images: Photos by Kuvio