Drawing inspiration from “The Kalevala” (a well-regarded Finnish epic), Professor Rainer Mahlamäki designed the all-wood building with sweeping curves mirroring that of a bird’s neck stretching into the sky. That natural focus also carries into the institution’s green initiative — the carbon footprint has been kept to a minimum with geothermal heat, solar collectors and a grass-decked roof.
Inside the family-friendly facility that opened this past May, a 59-foot panorama, the Five Seasons wall, immerses spectators in nature’s entirety, from the rocky crags of the archipelago to the snowy fells of Lapland, while the Yöretki (Nature at Night) room plunges you into the blackness of the forest with the sounds of owls hooting and wolves howling. Crawl into the Karhunpesä (Bear’s Den) and come face to face with a sleeping bear so realistic looking you’ll be afraid to turn your back on it. Venture inside the Sotkanmuna (Duck Egg), where Osmo Rauhala’s “Game Theory” highlights swans playing chess and suspended panels that catch the light as they move. Even the ground under you holds information; the interactive map of Finland on the floor depicts the natural wonders of the region where you happen to step.
Luonnos, a special exhibition opening in September, brings artists with arctic inspiration from Lapland to the foreground. Ceramic vases, traditional puukko knives (a belt knife with a curved cutting edge and a flat back), silver jewelry, bags and leather pillows are just some of the articles that will be on display.
Then, of course, there’s the actual lake at your feet, observed through huge windows or experienced by taking a hike on one of the many clearly marked trails. When hunger strikes, the Haltia Restaurant, with its terrace and spectacular views of Pitkäjärvi (Long Lake), offers coffee, a lunch buffet, or a packed meal for adventurers heading out into the wild.
Photos Courtesy of Finnish Nature Centre Haltia, Paavo Lehtonen and Tapani Mikkola