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The Northern Retreat

Karri Paasovaara

The Northern Retreat is located on the steep hills of Sirkka in northern Finland. It consists of 5 separate retreat “hubs” which brush down the side of the mountain in even strokes. The hubs are a place to ease the mind and disconnect from the busy and hectic outer world. The design concept follows the unusual rules of nature in the arctic circle. During the summertime, the sun never sets but orbits around from a low angle. The location was carefully picked to eliminate the negative aspects of this hence the retreat center is situated on the southern slopes so that the mountain lays over a shadow during nighttime. During winter months the opposite happens. Sun never shows up and the never-ending night takes over. This time of the year is great for admiring the northern lights which light up the sky in shades of green. The phenomenon comes from energized particles from the sun, being directed towards the southern and northern poles by the earth's magnetic field. The main task for the retreat center was to create a space where a person could connect with the wonders of nature while being isolated from everything else. With multiple meters of snow every winter, vertical viewing windows would have been an impossible choice. The idea was to have a reflective surface that would widen the view of the sky downwards to keep the horizontal openings at a small scale. This means that the lights in the sky can be admired through the reflections on the pool. The retreat hubs rise from the side of the mountain while lifting the natural surface displaced by the mass. The concrete walls of the hubs are cast on-site with rough wooden planks which create a brutalist yet organic finish. Together with exaggerated openings and windows, they create a balanced mass. The openings and windows offer views over 100 km away.

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