Studio Aula – an accessible hub of creative art
The arts and crafts workspace Studio Aula, which opened on Sörnäisten rantatie in early 2022, is part of the disability services provided by the Aula foundation. The lunch venue Teko, which is run by Aula’s customers, and the Putiikki shop that sells works of art made at Studio Aula also operate on the same premises. The Aula atmosphere is soothing: the gentle pastels against white let the arts and crafts created by the customers shine. Thanks to the versatile furniture that has been designed for different user groups in mind and the durable materials, the space is adaptable for many different uses, from painting workshops to intimate get-togethers.
Space for meaningful work and recreation
Aula is a non-profit organisation that helps people with disabilities and people who need other kind of special support in living their life to the fullest. Aula helps its customers to find their individual path to working life. The aim of the project was to create a functional and visually appealing space for both the customers and the staff. “We wanted to offer new kinds of day-time activities for our customers. The starting point was to have enough space and air and allow the customers to retreat to their own peace even in the presence of others. The end result surpasses all expectations,” says Nina Sohlberg-Ahlgren, Head of Operations at Aula. “We set out to create a good, beautiful and functional work environment, not a space dedicated to special groups – while we of course took into account sensory defensiveness and other special needs,”, Riina Ruska, Lead Designer for the project continues.
Design drivers of the project:
- functional and visually appealing space
- room for arts and crafts created by the customers
- equal and soothing experience for different customers
Rune & Berg Design had the great pleasure to be part of creating Studio Aula, a space brimming with creativity. We were responsible for the interior architectural design, specifying the furniture and materials for the working, break and social premises used by Aula’s customers, as well as the shop, lunch restaurant and lounge that are open to everyone. “This cooperation has been excellent, and everything has gone smoothly. Riina grasped the project on day one – she clearly understood what the environment and our customers are like”, Nina says, praising the cooperation.
Room for art
One of the most important starting points of the design was taking into account artistic work in the furniture and materials of the different spaces. Studio Aula has a textile workshop where the customers can weave, print, sew, knit and crochet. The art workshop is suitable for painting and drawing. All the surfaces and materials of Studio Aula are paint and dye resistant and easy to clean, and their colours are forgiving. “The whole location serves as an exhibition space for the creative works,” Riina sums up.
The Studio Aula premises also serve as an exhibition space for the arts and crafts created in the studio, which is why their overall look and feel is neutral, allowing the art to shine. There are two kinds of exhibition surfaces: surfaces that the customers illustrate themselves and surfaces on which the works on art can be placed on display. Art is an important part of Aula’s operations, and it develops continuously: “A new jewellery artist starts at Aula next week,” Nina says.
Solutions for the needs of different customers
The customers of Aula include different kinds of people with a wide range of needs and limitations. For example, some of the customers are overly responsive to sensory input. To ensure that the furniture is pleasant for all users, we paid particular attention to their durability, ergonomics and adjustability. For example, there are desks of different heights, both for standing and sitting, and the chairs have extensive adjustment options. “At first, we were worried that the large factory-like space would be too resonant and disturbing to noise sensitive customers. But it turns out they have not reacted to it,” Nina says, describing the project’s well-executed sound environment.
The users were also taken into account in the Studio Aula colour palette, which is based on the psychological effects of colours. Soothing pastels were selected for the space, because they are also suitable, for example, for customers with ASD. However, the subtle colour scheme has enough contrast so that customers with limited vision can see it clearly. “The colours are beautiful and relaxing. Our Italian guests just complimented the place and the interior design,” Nina says.
The Association for Finnish Work has awarded Aula with the Finnish Social Enterprise Mark.