In the first week of September, a workshop was held by CS to plan and design a concept for Tongji Lounge in Aalto. Participating in the workshop were students of CS, architecture and industrial design, under the guidance of Professor Lou Yongqi, Tongji University; Tiina Laurila, CS Programme Director; Laura Isoniemi, Aalto Department of Design; and Caroline Knappers, CS Design graduate.
What is Tongji Lounge in Aalto?
Tongji Lounge will occupy a currently underused portion of the Aalto Ventures Program space in the TUAS building in Otaniemi. The concept aims to:
- echo the existing Aalto presence on Tongji’s campus: the Sino-Finnish Centre and Aalto-Tongji Design Factory.
- be the window to Shanghai in its sister city of Espoo.
- inspire the development of the creative community on Otaniemi Campus.
- be a meeting point between Tongji and Aalto, both functionally and culturally.
The aim of the workshop was to develop several scenarios of how the space can be used by the people of Aalto University and its collaborators. It began with lectures by different stakeholders involved in the development of collaboration between Tongji and Aalto universities.
Lou Yongqi described his vision of the future of collaboration between Aalto and Tongji universities, including possible metro station links between the twin cities of Espoo and Shanghai, and introduced the Sino-Finnish Centre, a part of Aalto’s presence on Tongji campus.
Leena Plym-Rissanen (Collaboration between Tongji & Aalto Universities) discussed Aalto’s strategy of internationalisation, the partnership with Tongji University, the Sino-Finnish Centre as a platform for collaboration, educational and research cooperation with the CS and IDBM programs, and pedagogic training. She described her expectations for Tongji Lounge as a window; a place for VIP visitors to meet students; a place to have a cup of Chinese tea.
Kalle Airo (Aalto Ventures Program in Shanghai) introduced AVP minor and elective courses for multidisciplinary learning and entrepreneurship. His desires for the lounge: an open environment, flexible, lively, with open and quiet working spaces.
Esmi Santamäki (Aalto Design Factory) told about Design Factory’s history and the development of its spaces through the PDP and Future Lab of Product Design projects. He emphasised the importance of knowledge of who the users are, how they are going to use the space, and how it will evolve over time. His questions about the lounge: Is it a space for working, or a space for falling in love, meeting people, giving high fives? If it’s Tongji Lounge space, is it for me?
Valeria Gryada (Aalto Library Learning Center) introduced Aalto’s Learning hubs, and the challenges of designing a space at a completely random location. She described her atypical planning process: Discover space; recruit a student team (not architects!); find out how the students work.
Risto Sarvas (Aalto University / Futurice) explained how he has been using the existing space for a service design course because nothing else was available, even though he is “not supposed to be here.”
Laura Isoniemi showed everybody around the Donor’s Lounge, located in the same building, and described the history and development of that space.
Caroline Knappers presented her Master’s thesis work on unused spaces in Otaniemi, along with her other projects within Aalto, and discussed the possibilities for use, and possible users, of vacated space.
Jarmo Suominen (Aalto Department of Architecture, visiting scientist at the MIT Design Lab) talked about wayfinding and the customer journey in and around the space, and compared the collaboration with Tongji to that with MIT, identifying passion as the common factor between the universities. He asked: What are the tools required for interaction?
Planning the Concept
The planning phase began with lectures by Professor Lou on his own design work. He introduced Design harvests, a project concerning urban/rural interactions and physical/digital services in China; along with his design studio, Tektao, and its output—including school buildings and post-earthquake developments—describing “Chinese ways of sustainability.”
“I have been thinking about ‘what is China?’ for many years, I have drawn the conclusion that changing is a fundamental part of Chinese culture.”
Lou went on to describe the history of Tongji University, plans for the Tongji campus area, and the Sino-Finnish Centre (which houses Tongji DESIS Lab, Cumulus Lab Shanghai and Aalto-Tongji Design Factory). He also described Urban Reading and Narrative Environment, a course at Tongji seeking to improve the daily environment through small design interventions.
A discussion followed, including topics such as how to communicate Aalto-Tongji collaboration on Otaniemi campus, create a student-driven platform, collaborate with Aalto Ventures Program, and sustain collaboration between Tongji and Aalto, in a creative way.
Developing the Concept
During the concept development stage, the workshoppers identified themes such as do/show/share, openness, fast & future-oriented, continuous learning, sensitivity; and discussed how to enlarge the impact of the space, and how to connect several hotspots in the university to have a holistic impact—an acupuncture approach.
Ari Huczkowski (CEO of Otaniemi Marketing) joined to discuss possibilities for business collaboration.
Finalising the Concept
After an intensive week (and many cups of Chinese tea), the finalised concept was presented, and feedback was given by many of the stakeholders involved. The Lounge was described as:
- a place to establish new research, teaching and business collaborations.
- a meeting point for Chinese and Finnish students, researchers and professionals.
- the first node in a spreading network of spaces and meeting points within Aalto University’s Otaniemi campus.
A long-term road map was presented, suggesting possible future actions and collaborations; a more concrete set of next steps described the actions to be taken during the rest of 2014.
For the pilot phase, the Lounge will be refurnished and open in late November. All are welcome to visit, and contribute to the further development of Tongji Lounge in Aalto.
For any students who have been in Shanghai and have photographs they would like to contribute to the atmosphere of the space, please contact Caroline, the project manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org