Architect Sami Rintala supervises the architecture students of University of Westminster and Aalto University in Finland as they are building a wooden tea pavilion in front of the Design Museum in Helsinki. The tea pavilion opens on 3rd July and stays open until the end of the Helsinki Design Week on 15th September. In this interview, Rintala tells us about the planning of the tea pavilion and the affect of the project on the students.
How was the idea for the tea pavilion formulated?
“The idea was developed by the students of the two participating universities, University of Westminster and Aalto University. The students and us teachers discussed what Englishness is and how the English tea drinking culture can be seen. Then we talked about how these can be explored in architecture. The final product combines Finnish wood and English tea drinking.”
Why was wood chosen to be the central material in this project?
“We are cooperating with Woodstudio at Aalto University and I have held approximately 200 workshops about wood, so it was natural to continue to work with wood. It is a democratic material, for which you do not need complicated tools and it is easy to work on. It is great that nature provides material that grows by itself and can in a short time be used for building something that will last for 100 years, if it is done well. Wood is an outstanding material ecologically, economically, and for teaching purposes.”
The tea pavilion celebrates 100 years of diplomatic ties between the United Kingdom and Finland. What kind of effect does this project have on the students’ networking in the two countries?
“Humans like to work together and this kind of experience strengthens people’s sense of belonging to a group in a different way than everyday interaction. Helping each other while building and experiencing the end result together is a bonding element. Even couples have been formed during these projects.”
How much has your vision affected the design of the pavilion and how much have the students been able to fulfill their visions?
“The students have designed the pavilion and the teachers have commented on the plans from a practical point of view. It is better for the learning process that the students get to decide by themselves. At the same they have learned to recognize each other’s ideas and discuss possible solutions. It is important to trust each other and others’ ability to evaluate ideas.”
The tea pavilion can be found in front of Design museum, Korkeavuorenkatu 23, 00130 Helsinki, Finland 3.7.-15.9.
Text: Jenni Ahtiainen Photo: Tommaso Nova