Finavia Aukio

Aukio brings nature
to the heart of the airport

Located in the heart of Finavia’s non-Schengen terminal, Aukio brings the magic of Finland’s forests to the airport. On the triangular central plaza, passengers can take a short break or rest for a longer time in the peace and quiet of nature. Panoramic media displays encircle the plaza, offering images of the blazing northern lights, gently swaying trees and the changing seasons. The visual landscapes reproduced by almost 500 screens are complemented by furniture that matches the shapes of forest terrain, the custom-made soundscape and interactive wall projections. Spending time in the forest plaza allows passengers to relax and feel refreshed. The pleasant experience means they are more likely to choose Finavia on their next trip. “Aukio offers a moment to experience Finnish nature, seasons, cleanliness and freshness – the best qualities of the country that are not necessarily what one expects to find at an airport,” says Johanna Laakso, Customer Experience Director during the Finavia project, summarising the experience provided by Aukio.

Memorable moments in a Finnish forest

The central plaza of the Helsinki Airport extension opened in January 2019. The Aukio concept, which was designed by Rune & Berg Design and Architects Davidsson Tarkela, welcomes passengers to experience Finnish nature with all their senses. The project began as an invitation contest organised by Finavia to find a concept to develop the passenger experience in the lobbies and corridors of the non-Schengen terminal extension. The joint concept put forward by Rune & Berg Design and Davidsson Tarkela “When A Piece of Wild Turns into Peace of Mind” was selected as the winner. “The extraordinary customer experience and related customer experience pillars guide the implementation of our strategy. Those have been greatly incorporated into the design of the non-Schengen area, Aukio and the overall passenger experience”, Finavia’s Vice President of Passenger Experience and Processes explains about the background of the project.

The design drivers that guided the concept design:

  • developing a memorable passenger experience
  • taking into account Finavia’s four customer segments
  • highlighting Finnish nature and the sensory experiences it evokes

In addition to the central plaza, the new concept and the renewal covered a more extensive analysis of the passenger journey. “We looked at the entire airport journey, which starts when the plane lands and the passenger arrives at Helsinki Airport, then they go through security control and step into Aukio,” explains Jenni Herkama, Lead Designer at Rune & Berg Design. The concept was designed in cooperation with Architects Davidsson Tarkela. Rune & Berg Design was also responsible for further concept development with Finavia personnel and helping to find suitable retail furniture for the concept. The audiovisual solutions for the project were designed by OiOi. PES-Architects, which designed the new extension of Helsinki Airport, was also closely involved in the project.

Immersive nature experience
as part of the customer experience

The Helsinki Airport extension was inspired by Finnish forests and the sensory experiences they evoke. Aukio is a safe space where passengers can stop for a moment to wind down in Finnish nature. Visitors can admire, for example, the movements of clouds and winds, the changing of the seasons and furniture made from Finnish birch. Passengers who are looking for wow experiences will enjoy the interactive wall projections and the unique shops and restaurants around Aukio. For example, Aukio is one of the few places in Europe that has an Ajisen Ramen restaurant. “In our design and development work, we have made sure that the experience of Finnish design, smooth traveling, nature and tranquility would make a lasting impression of exceptional quality on the tourists,” says Helsinki Airport’s Director, describing the goals of the cooperation.

The design team developed the passenger experience also from the point of view of ease, simplicity and technical solutions. Digital display technology is a key element of the Aukio experience and Finavia’s customer promise: “Smooth traveling”. Technical solutions were renewed also elsewhere along the passenger journey. The new security control process is smoother and involves a smart X-ray line, person scanners and remote reading of X-ray images on the basis of feedback provided by the security control officers. Johanna remembers how the target experience and technologies were reconciled between different project parties: “What I remember first about this project is that we had to express the emotions the space was supposed to evoke with the help of a range of technical solutions to create an impactful and coherent whole. Rune & Berg was a partner that listened to us carefully and made sure the project as a whole progressed within schedule. You had an excellent skill to manage situations where multiple internal stakeholders and their sprawling ideas had to be harmonised. The service design approach and fast iteration, for example, by sketching the client’s idea, helped in this.”

In all respects, Aukio and the spaces around it support Finavia’s customer segments and the four pillars of its customer experience: sense of time, refreshment, Finnish experiences and security. “Out of the customer experience pillars, security is realized especially in the clear and simple infrastructure and world-class safety check, Aukio provides the experience of Finland and the Finnish nature, while services, restaurants and the Finnair and Plaza Premium lounge provide refreshment, Timo explains. Finavia’s customer experience has also developed positively: “We have received positive feedback about the renewal. Our most important key performance indicator, airport service quality (ASQ), is 4.4 amongst non-Schengen passengers on a scale of 0-5 so really high. Aukio is one part of this”, Timo sums up. “Aukio’s value comes partly from its positive reputation. One of our objectives was that Aukio would also receive positive attention on social media,” Johanna says.

Aukio was a finalist at the Media Architecture Biennale 2020 in the category “More Than Human Architecture”. MAB20 calls for media architectures that move beyond the mere spectacular; as well as beyond the design of individualized services comforting human customers.

Aukio was also one of the contestants for the 2019 Kehäkukka award. The City of Vantaa grants the Kehäkukka award to a high-quality, innovative architectural site or action.

Would you like to learn more about Aukio?

Read, for example, articles on Aukio in Projektiuutiset (in Finnish) or the Finavia website. There are also videos on the Aukio pilot day (in Finnish) and the interactive solutions by OiOi.