Mahnala environmental school is located in a rural setting in central Finland a few kilometers north of the city of Tampere. Currently the school is housed in an old building dating from 1903. This building is highly representative of the Finnish vernacular school- house of the time. As such it is an iconic symbol of the long-standing tradition of educational facilities on the site. The old building, however, has been undersized to house the activities of the growing municipality for years already. The lack of space has been alleviated by temporary classroom buildings on the site; a functional, but hardly inspirational solution. The city of Hämeenkyrö was looking for an architectural solution that matches the schools nationally acclaimed environmental curriculum. A competition for a new 6000m2 school building was held 26.9.2012 -6.5.2013 in two phases.
Hyperbuildings entry for the competition is located directly adjacent to the 1903 school building forming and natural extension for it while retaining the existing building as the main attractor of the site. The addition is an L-shaped volume that forms a new central courtyard with the existing building. This approach seeks to maximize opportunities for having natural and agricultural landscapes on the site. The challenge in this approach is avoiding a building volume that overpowers the dimensions of the historic school building and the nearby houses as the program for the new building is significantly larger than anything on the site previously. Sloping landscape of the site allows the functions of the new school building to be located on the against the hill simultaneously allowing a multistory solution with direct access outdoors from each floor and a low roofline following the contours of the site which does not overshadow the scale of existing architecture. The hill also provides a metaphor for the learning experience as a student progresses from earlier grades, located on the lower floors to the upper classrooms in the attic. Colours and materials of the addition are a modern interpretation of the local wooden vernacular further tying the new addition to the historic layers of the site, creating a friendly familiar feel for a large new building.