Multidisciplinary Collaboration in Suomenlinna – Past and Present

Written by: Maria Mercer, Anna Muukkonen and Robert Nuorteva


In 1968, a multidisciplinary group of engineers, designers and architects organized a seminar on the island of Suomenlinna to bring together a diverse group of minds to examine the emerging needs of a changing world. They recognized that a collaboration of unique perspectives was necessary to address these needs and to create a new definition for design, and brought together people with knowledge in engineering, human factors, production and sale with technicians, doctors, psychologists and economists to develop a cross-disciplinary collaborative form of design. Attendees included Buckminster Fuller, Victor Papanek, Kaj Frank, Christopher Alexander, Antti Nurmesniemi, and a young Yrjö Sotamaa who later became president of TaiK (now Aalto ARTS) from 1986 until 2008. (source

Coincidence or not – almost 50 years later – students from Aalto University’s Creative Teamwork course took part in a multidisciplinary group challenge in Suomenlinna. The course exercise addressed the role of collaboration as a way to tackle the challenge of creating a sustainable future in the island. The final posters presented in the course can be seen here.


Creative Teamwork was our first crash-course in collaborative learning. On the first day, we formed our teams consisting of students from the CS Business, Design, Architecture, and Real Estate programmes and our groups were given a challenge. A week later, we were facilitating our final workshops. Throughout the course, we took part in fun team-building activities and exercises to develop our facilitation skills led by teachers Paula Siitonen and Mikko Jalas.



We were presented with a real-life challenge: the issue of sustainability at Suomenlinna. Once a military sea fortress and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Suomenlinna is a living community and a popular picnic destination for locals and tourists – all just a 15-minute ferry ride from Helsinki’s market square. We worked as groups to identify sustainability issues on the island and then combined our wide range of skills and knowledge to come up with solutions. Some of the issues we addressed were waste management, year-round tourism management, environmental sustainability, and transportation.

Robert, one of the students in the Creative Teamwork course, said:

“This course was a great kick-off for the whole CS program – three intensive days full of workshops, brainstorming, discussions, and laughter! Most importantly, we came together as a group. Our group has a wide array of different personalities, coming from different disciplines from all around the world. However, our similarities became clear early on: everyone seems to share endless curiosity, and a passion for making a positive impact in the world.

Also, the course set the tone for much of the learning methods applied in the program. We got to work on a real life mini-project, which provided us an open-ended problem to work with. So we got out of the building, and immersed ourselves in the field. This adventure led us to a beautiful island full of history, and a heritage worth to cherish – the perfect environment to kick off sustainability studies.”




Posted by Creative Sustainability
3 years ago