Vellamo: Beacon of the Cityscape Kotka’s Maritime Centre Vellamo fulfils a visual as well as a strategical function within the cityscape. The figure of the Maritime Centre guides travellers from the heart of the city out to the north-eastern end of the City Terminal and into a harbour of culture. The Maritime Centre is the hallmark of the city’s cultural profile. The role of an individual building in determining the direction of a city’s overall architectural development is nowadays recognised as a model for city planning. The Maritime Centre is a notable addition to landmarks associated with Kotka both nationally and internationally.
Vellamo: Cornerstone of the Culture Harbour The Old Harbour, or City Terminal, will soon be transformed into a Culture Harbour. Work in and around the harbour will coexist with spaces designated for pastimes and cultural activities. In addition to events at the Maritime Centre, the surrounding area will take on a more active role for local residents with attractions including a multipurpose arena, a cinema complex, a ferry terminal and a guest marina. As the first of its kind, the international significance of the Maritime Centre affords it a unique role as the functional cornerstone of the downtown area.
Vellamo: A Maritime Vision The title of the proposal to win first prize in the architectural competition to design the Maritime Centre was HYÖKY, ‘swell’. References to the sea incorporated in the building’s distinctive architecture link the Maritime Centre to the sea in general and to the unique features of the Kymenlaakso region in particular. The abstract image of a large wave, a swell, which dominates the exterior of the building, and the façade, specially designed to capture the glint of the water, combine to create a physical representation of the sea.
Vellamo: Proactive Cityscape Situated at the end of the planned culture harbour, the roof of the Maritime Centre, the crown of the cityscape, forms a square which will play host to a wide array of different events. A walkway rising gently from the city centre and widening as it reaches the top of the building leads up to the rooftop square. A sloped floor with a staggered performance space, an incline culminating in a steel-glass covering and the square’s position high above the surrounding city together create a unique space suitable for all manner of different activities. The outdoor exhibition space and the main entrance, opening out towards both the city centre and the quayside, form a focal point in the ground-level cityscape.
Vellamo: A World of Shifting Spaces The interior of the Maritime Centre is characterised by the application of timeless architectural concepts. With the help of natural light, spatial layout and the choice of materials, individual spaces come together to form shifting, adaptable, dynamic spatial units. The entrance, the foyer, with its broad staircase, and the elevated, centrally located exhibition hall housing the permanent collection give the interior of the Maritime Centre its distinctive character; together they form a spatial entity fashioned from free-shaped wall faces, a material world dominated by oak-wood surfaces and the expanding nature of the surrounding space.
Vellamo: Functional Guides The elevated exhibition space housing the permanent collection, shared by both in-house museums, plays a key role in the Maritime Centre. Each museum’s exhibition tour can function independently or as part of a larger tour encompassing both exhibitions. A walkway forming both a visual and a physical link between the two museums’ exhibition spaces leads out of the shared foyer. The bridges crossing the elevated permanent-exhibition room guide visitors to the main entrances into each individual museum and to doors leading into the spaces housing the numerous visiting collections. The museum shop, a restaurant, seminar and teaching rooms and an auditorium are all situated in and around the main foyer area.
Vellamo: Maximum Adaptability The rooms housing the numerous visiting exhibitions, as well as those housing each museum’s permanent collections, have been specially designed to make them as adaptable as possible. The form, colour scheme and inbuilt technical equipment in each room have been carefully chosen with regard to the varying nature of different exhibition environments. The clearly defined shape and proportions of these rooms, the neutral grey colouring specified on all surfaces and fittings, and the comprehensive lighting, electricity, heating and ventilation system make them suitable for housing a whole host of different museum exhibitions.
Vellamo: A Cultural Focal Point The Maritime Centre is home to two permanent residents: the Maritime Museum of Finland and the Museum of Kymenlaakso. In addition to the two museums, numerous other organisations will be able to take advantage of the Maritime Centre’s facilities. The 250-seat auditorium is fully equipped to serve the needs of a variety of different clients. The foyer design, the educational and seminar rooms and the centrally located restaurant together provide all the services necessary for visiting congresses and musical events. An extensive library is situated on the ground floor and is fitted with a separate entrance. In addition to the two in-house museums, the Kotka Maritime Library, administered by the Kymenlaakso University of Applied Sciences, and the Science Library of the University of Helsinki’s Kotka Department will also operate from the library facility.
Vellamo: An Intensive Working Environment The Maritime Centre’s workspaces are divided between the ground floor and the second floor of the building. Spaces used for unloading, restoration, exhibition construction, storage and conservation purposes are organised according to function and situated on the ground floor. The museums’ shared administrative office spaces are located on the second floor.
Vellamo: A Contemporary Structure In terms of the methods employed in its construction, the Maritime Centre building is a prime example of modern, Finnish structural engineering. The Maritime Centre is primarily built around a column and beam system of reinforced concrete girders. The ground floor consists largely of structural hollow-core slabs, the middle and upper floors of hollow-core slab constructions, while the walkway on the roof is designed as an inverted structure. Steel girders were used in the upper-floor structure of the wide, elevated area. The rooftop square, the covering over the fitted upper floor and the maintenance area is a combination of steel, glass and aluminium. The outer walls are constructed using a lightweight skeleton structure. Sheet-metal cassettes, painted in a variety of different shades, are the primary building material on the exterior of the building, to which a lattice made of aluminium and pressed-silk glass has been affixed.
Vellamo: The Fruit of Collaboration In 2004 the City of Kotka held an architectural competition to produce a design of the Maritime Centre. A total of 86 design proposals were received. The results of the competition were announced in January 2005. The City of Kotka, the Museum of Kymenlaakso and the Maritime Museum of Finland collaborated to establish the initial parameters for the design work, and have since worked in close association with the chosen architects from spring 2005 to February 2006, by which time all contractual documentation was finalised. The design plan based on the winning proposal, HYÖKY, is founded on close cooperation between developers, clients and designers.