Lapland Presidential Retreat Becomes Renovated Boutique Lodge

Jávri Lodge has a long history in Finland, having once served as a retreat to longest serving Finnish president, Urho Kekkonen. Architect Teemu Pirinen was tasked with providing the building with some much-needed TLC. The result: a building which once housed world leaders and royalty now serves as a cosy refuge for guests.


Teemu handled the project with great care: “I spent a long time at the lodge just soaking it in and trying to understand what elements of the building created the atmosphere and feeling,” he explains. The updated Jávri Lodge now features an expanded main entrance, a dining hall, and four new hotel rooms. With its robust copper roof and log cabin design, it’s easy to feel the history in Jávri Lodge.

We had a chat with Teemu about his experience renovating the president’s old ski lodge into a cosy new hotel.

Project name: Jávri Lodge
Architecture Studio: Arkkitehtitoimisto Teemu Pirinen []
Lead Architects: Teemu Pirinen
Project location: Saariselkä, Finland
Completion Year: 2018
Gross Built Area: 336 m²
Photo credits: Marc Goodwin


THE PLUS: How did it make you feel, redesigning a building so closely related to your nation’s former president?
Teemu Pirinen:
President Kekkonen is a mythical figure here in Finland. He’s seen as a strong leader and sort of father figure of the nation. So in a way the old building as a robust timber log structure is already a good representation of the man and his time. I wanted to design an addition that has equally strong character and same sort of robust nature as the old building – but in a modern way. So I guess I tried to honour the legacy of Kekkonen by reinterpreting the strong character and sense of place of his skiing lodge. How did it make me feel? Brave. I was thrilled to get to make my own mark on this piece of our nation’s history.

TP: How did this history of the lodge enrich your inspiration?
The really strong sense of place and history was a big inspiration. I spent a long time at the lodge just soaking it in and trying to understand what elements of the building created the atmosphere and feeling. When I had made my emotional and sensual analysis of the place I felt really inspired to come up with and design the additional elements that would enrich the character and atmosphere of the lodge.


TP: Can you describe your signature style for us?
My process always starts with a careful analysis of the plot, vistas and orientation to sun. Then I assemble the spatial program together with my client and build up a hierarchy. After that it’s just about feeling the place, character of the client and letting my subconscious combine all of the factors into forms, spaces and places. So there’s no style, just the imprint of my own persona that my method leaves on my work.

TP: Nature has a strong presence at this location. Tell us about the influence it had on your work.
I live in a village of 700 people here in Finnish Lapland with my family. We are surrounded by wilderness. That’s why all my work is influenced by the presence of nature. Generally it manifests as use of natural materials, apparent simplicity and plain-ness. On this particular project the strongest factor was that it sits on the edge and has vistas towards a huge national park. I wanted to make being so close to the wilderness present inside the building by designing huge glass openings. Because the wilderness and nature is so powerful and present here I designed the spaces warm and enclosing so that one can sense the nature but still feel protected and safe.


TP: Why did you opt for featuring copper dominantly, for example in the entrance area?
The timber log structure of the old building has very strong character and beautiful patina. Because I wanted to design an addition that is an organic (as opposed to subtle) part of the whole I had to find another material that has equally strong character and will eventually generate patina as well. That is why I chose copper as the main material of the addition. Using copper led to black timber on the new interior surfaces. Copper on the surfaces of the entrance areas creates the illusion of the exterior leaking inside the building. It’s a sort of playful and interesting detail that also adds gravitas and prestige to the space.

TP: The black batten ceiling in the dining hall looks amazing. How did you come up with this idea?
Everything added to the old building has to have strong character, texture and sense of materiality. Using black creates a very beautiful subtle darkness to the high ceiling and brings out the main element of the space – The amazing high dining works of art created on the white surfaces of the show kitchen (part of the dining hall) and served on white plates like a dark museum.


TP: What role did sustainability and eco-friendliness play in this design?
Both are very important in tourism architecture today. Most of those aspects are technical but we wanted to show them as part of the architecture as well. We use wood, untreated copper that will patinate, and flooring made of recycled plastic. The whole building is geothermally heated and has ecological insulation material.

TP: How challenging was it to design the Sky-Suites, especially for the Nordic Lights?
It’s just design work. Big tall glass wall with wide daybed acting as a windowsill and neutrally toned interior finishes with black ceiling. Optics, really. The hard part was designing the shape of the building mass housing the Sky-Suites so that it sits beautifully on top of the old building and as part of the whole composition.

TP: What’s your favourite element of the Jávri Lodge?
The calm, relaxing and dignified atmosphere of the building that I think I managed to preserve. No doubt about it!

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