Mikkolankuja 6, 00680 Helsinki
The Solakallio school was completed in December 2019. The facilities were designed together with the users to meet the requirements of a special school.
The Solakallio special school was completed in December 2019 in Pakila, one of the highest points in Helsinki. The Solakallio school is home to pupils with extended compulsory education who have intellectual disabilities and/or autism spectrum disorder. The special needs of these pupils influenced the requirements for the school building, and one of the objectives of the project was to provide facilities that are as suitable as possible for children with special needs.
It was decided to build the school building as a modular and movable building for Parmaco Health. Fixcel’s patented steel frame technology allows the building to be modified by adding or removing modules according to space requirements. The steel-framed building is also highly climate-resilient, as steel does not provide a breeding ground for mould or microbial growth.
Space planning based on user needs
The students at Solakallio School are looking for a homelike and compact environment. For this reason, the school building has been designed on two floors, with nine functional cells. Each cell has a lobby-like assembly area, a general education area with a connecting classroom, and a small differentiation area for individual teaching. Pupils enter the building through four entrances.
In addition to the layout of the rooms, other solutions were designed to meet the requirements of special needs children. Corridors and doorways were designed to be wide enough to allow easy access for those with special needs, including those with assistive devices. It was hoped that the colour scheme would support the pupils’ perception of the space and the link between the learning space and the activities taking place there. The users also had other needs that were met in the new building. These included requests for surface materials, peepholes, door locks, cleaning and wireless networking.
The provision of a school escort service also required planning. The majority of pupils arrive at the school by car, so there had to be sufficient parking for cars waiting for children, as well as routes for safe transport to and from the school.
Special attention to sensory stimuli
Solakallio Special School has a large number of children who are particularly sensitive to sensory stimuli. To ensure their peace of mind, special attention has been paid to the soundproofing and damping of the building.
A sensory room and two non-sensory rooms have also been installed in the building. A sensory room is a normal, quiet room where pupils’ senses can be stimulated through a variety of activities. The non-sensory rooms, or grey rooms, are closed off from light, sound and other external stimuli.
Pupils more relaxed in new premises
Solakallio School has been in its new premises for almost three years. The building project was on a tight schedule, but the users are very happy with the facilities.
We had to think about alternative facilities at very short notice. Parmaco Health was selected through a tender process as the supplier and main designer of the temporary space, and we were closely involved in the process. We only had a few months to plan,” recalls Johanna Helenius, special education teacher and acting principal of the school at the time.
Helenius thanks Parmaco Health for allowing the school to be heavily involved in the planning phase and for really listening to them.
I have been a special teacher for autism for 13 years, so I have a long experience of what is needed in a school. We had big dreams of what our dream school would look like that would meet the needs of students with autism spectrum disorder. So we took great care in the design, including the acoustics and lighting conditions,” says Helenius.
The pupils have really enjoyed the new facilities.
The sound, temperature and lighting conditions in the building mean that our pupils are much calmer here than in the old premises. The best thing about the whole project was the fact that we got access to a space designed specifically for our students and the environment created for them,” concludes Helenius.