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Lahti Travel Center – a striking concept and a successful project

The project alliance for the implementation of the brand-new Lahti Travel Center, with its gleaming copper surfaces, was an enjoyable and instructive effort for Sito, who was in charge of its planning.

The striking rectangular bus terminal canopy and its pillars are clad with perforated copper. Photo: Mika Hausman.

The construction of the new travel center, which has hindered traffic in the center of Lahti, has been completed to the delight of everyone affected. The Travel Center and its crowning jewel, the new long-distance bus terminal, was presented to guests and the media in mid-January.

The architecturally striking design of the terminal with its magnificent, gleaming copper cladding has received the admiration it deserves, but it is only a part of a larger whole. The purpose of the Travel Center is to bring together different forms of public transport that were previously scattered and to modernize Lahti’s cityscape.

A new public transport hub

As in many other cities, the bus and train stations in Lahti were located impractically far apart for current travel needs. Plans to move the bus station closer to the train station had been under consideration since the turn of the millennium. The train station was also seen as a natural hub for various forms of public transport. In addition, the city wanted a travel center that would form a striking urban element in the heart of the city. From the very beginning, the historic milieu and urban design considerations posed challenges for the planning of the travel center.

Planning got underway in the current decade. After the confirmation of the city plan in 2012, Sito began to prepare a master plan for the area in 2013.

A lighter project alliancing model

The City of Lahti wanted the travel center to be implemented as a project alliance, but in a less standard, lighter form. “The client first chose a planner and then wanted us, as the principal planner, to be involved in assessing the capability of the contractors for a project alliance,” says Pekka Mantere, Head of Department, Bridges and Structures from Sito. He acted as the principal designer of the project. The project manager for the project was Taina Kuparinen, Head of Department, Road and Street Planning.

Workshop discussions were conducted with three contractors, of which YIT Construction was chosen for the project alliance.

Versatile infrastructure planning

The Travel Center project, with a total cost of EUR 18.9 million, included the construction of a long-distance bus terminal deck and canopy, alteration work for streets and pedestrian and bicycle paths, elevator and stairway shafts, local bus stops, commuter parking, and, a novelty in Finland, a covered bicycle park for 200 bicycles. All this was implemented in the middle of traffic in the busy city center.

As a separate project, an eight-story office building, the BW Tower, was completed adjacent to the Travel Center in the fall of 2015. From the beginning of February, the first floor of the building will house travel and parcel services.

For Sito, as the principal planner, this was a very comprehensive city center infrastructure project, encompassing a wide range of special planning: traffic, bridge, structure, geotechnical, street, drainage, environmental, and lighting planning. Projectus Team Oy, now part of Rambolli Finland Oy, was responsible for HVAC design as Sito’s subconsultant, while JKMM Architects were responsible for the architectural design.

Striking details

The work division between principal planner Sito and the architectural firm was clear. Sito was in charge ofthe structural planning typical of infrastructure projects, while JKMM was responsible for the actual architectural design. The planning team fit these structures together.

“It is not often we get to implement infrastructure projects with such a wealth of detail, precision and refinement, usually associated with house building. Typically, projects like this are built of ordinary concrete and steel,” laughs Pekka Mantere.

An everyday traffic environment is seldom designed and implemented so elegantly, down to the glossy copper cladding.

Instructive experience

In ordinary construction projects, the parties each labor with their own tasks and may not always understand the problems of the others. According to Pekka Mantere, this first experience of a project alliance was an eye-opener in many respects.

“For instance, procurement was subject to open evaluation by all parties in the project alliance team. This made us understand each other’s positions and realize that it’s not always that easy for a contractor, either,” he notes.

In any case, the end result is a travel center that makes public transport in Lahti run smoother and is not just functional, but also visually striking and refined down to the last detail.

Text: Dakota Lavento. Photography: Mika Huisman