A busy start

© Ruiz Romero for the Oulu 2026 European Capital of Culture Foundation

Since the beginning of 2022, while weather conditions in Finland don't allow for the renovation works to continue, the team at Aaltosiilo has been quite busy presenting the new plans and design updates to the Oulu 2026 Capital of Culture Foundation team and the city planning council. The project is now officially part of the Oulu 2026 programming and plans are in the making to organise the first event within the Silo this summer.

The focus on recycling and reuse has prompted the Skene Catling de la Peña team to look for suitable demolition sites in order to reclaim and reuse building material (or 'spolia') in and around Oulu. Charlotte Skene Catling was invited as a keynote speaker at the European University of Post-Industrial Cities in Rotterdam on June 17, where she will present the AALTOSIILO project and the Meri Toppila urban transformation process.

The Silo keeps gaining attention in the international press, with several articles published or planned for publication. See our Press section to stay up to date.

Read the Aaltosiilo brochure to learn more about the project.


Let there be light!

© Valentino Tignanelli

No longer a building for storing woodchips, the Silo is now an extraordinary piece of sculpture. Since July, Valentino Tignanelli and the team in Finland have cleared, cleaned and secured the building after decades of neglect; the pigeons no longer rule the roost. The most recent step, before the snow and freezing weather halted building work until spring, has been the installation of electricity and lighting.

Through the preservation of this great building, the goal is to create a new approach to the recording and reuse of industrial heritage. After an extremely positive meeting with the Oulu planning department, Skene Catling de la Peña are currently developing the design of the new Research Centre, and working with engineers eHRW and other Finnish partners to define a protocol for recycling large pieces of demolition waste.

"The Aaltosiilo project ends its first operational year with the building and plot of land fully cleaned and cleared. Plus, now for the first time in 40 years, the inside is lightened up by a new electricity network and dozens of working lights.

2022 will see the Siilo renovated in depth, with sustainable practices and innovative solutions that will hopefully allow us to host the first events and shared discussions with the community about its future. Everybody in Oulu is looking forward to the revitalisation of this iconic landmark and the work will continue at a fast pace, among Northern lights in the sky and snow in the ground!"

Valentino Tignanelli
Project manager for AALTOSIILO


3D scan of the silo exterior is completed

The AALTOSIILO team is delighted to announce that the 3D model of the Aalto Siilo has been completed in collaboration with the Arctic Drone Labs team from Oulu University of Applied Sciences. The scanning of the building and its plot was done using drone-based Lidar and photogrammetry during the summer. The model will soon be updated to include the interior of the building.

The 3D model will serve as a record of the building prior to restoration and also provide a base for the architectural plans.


Renovation works begin: cleaning the Silo

© Valentino Tignanelli

Since the beginning of July, a dedicated team led by Valentino Tignanelli is carrying out the first phase of the AALTOSIILO renovations. More than four containers of trash, accumulated in years of neglect, were removed from the building. The surfaces of the lower interiors, up to the original 1930s bridge (which will undergo restoration for stability issues) were pressure-cleaned and the team is expecting to finish cleaning the building very soon in order to start the repainting phase.
Pest control measures were also enforced to rid the Silo of the colony of pigeons that previously endangered further drone surveys. Arctic Drone Labs, in partnership with Oamk, has already started recording the outside of the Silo to make a 3D model of the building.


The 15th International Alvar Aalto Symposium – Future of Industry

The 15th International Alvar Aalto Symposium – Future of Industry (August 12-13 2021), will focus on the current challenges of the spaces and milieus of the history, present and future manufacturing industry. The main theme will be studied from three specific viewpoints. Reliable partner: a factory building in the city, Responsible action: sustainable industrial milieus and Building identity: The role of industrial architecture in constructing community, recognizability and perceived value.

Charlotte Skene Catling and Adam Lowe will present the AALTOSIILO as keynote speakers in this event organised by the Alvar Aalto Academy together with the City of Jyväskylä and several other partners. The 2-day programme will include besides speeches and conversations, architectural excursions, exhibitions and various public events.

Visit the event page for updates


AALTOSIILO and Rafael Moneo

The limited edition designed by Rafael Moneo in support of the AALTOSIILO © Rafael Moneo

Factum Foundation is delighted to present a limited edition of La Mejorada’s ‘Las Cercas’ 2015 wine, designed by Rafael Moneo in support of the AALTOSIILO project in Oulu. The winery of El Monasterio de La Mejorada has, itself, undergone extensive restorations to ensure its survival and now houses award winning wine which will help raising funds for the AALTOSIILO: a collaborative effort to recognise the importance of architectural and industrial heritage.
We thank Rafael for his kind contribution and support to this initiative.
More news to come soon!


The Aalto Capsule & Silo Dreaming

Interior of the Toppila Wood Chip Silo in the winter of 2021 © Laura Klemola

As part of the third edition of the Architecture Film Festival in London (2 - 27 June), the 'Aalto Capsule', curated by Charlotte Skene Catling, used many different perspectives and media to focus attention on Alvar and Aino Aalto’s modernist concrete Silo in Oulu. The aim was not only to reflect on Alvar Aalto’s legacy as one of the most renowned architects of the 20th century, but also to celebrate the fact that Oulu has been selected as the European City of Culture in 2026.

Aalto’s personal life, influences and architecture were explored through the feature documentary Aalto (2020) by Virpi Suutari, while his first industrial project, the 1931 Toppila Pulp Mill Factory and the live AaltoSiilo architectural project, address many current concerns such as how industrial architectural heritage is preserved and reused, the impact of industry on the environment in the Arctic North, how buildings and nature are recorded, and how changes in current architectural practice might tackle some of the destructive industrial residue of the 20th century. The AaltoSiilo restoration and rejuvenation aim to contribute to the rethinking of materiality for the 21st century and the role industrial heritage plays in memory, in shaping place and cultural identity both in the past and in the present. Working with cultural organisations and the city of Oulu we aim to make the Silo a dynamic part of life in Toppila: a local focus for creative ideas with global impact.

The feature-length documentary, Remembrance, A Small Film About Oulu in the 1950’s (2013) by Peter von Bagh, puts the project into context, as does 'Silo Dreaming', a text about the impact of these iconic forms on early 20th century modernist architecture. Aalto’s original drawings, models and colour swatches for the silo from the Aalto Foundation Archive act as representations of thinking and process. Current recordings include a recent drone film, AaltoSiilo, (2020) by Tapio Snellman, an interactive Lidar scan and panorama, AaltoSiilo360º by Rami Saarikorpi and a haunting sound recording of the space by Valentino Tignanelli. A podcast and illustrated talk between Adam Lowe and Charlotte Skene Catling about the AaltoSiilo include a brief background to Oulu, its complex history and ‘Tar Bourgeois’, as well as the multiple aims and extraordinary range of subjects this project encapsulates.

Access the free content of the Aalto Capsule


AALTOSIILO: Factum Foundation and Oamk

© Otto Lowe

Factum Foundation and the Oulu University of Applied Sciences (Oamk) are delighted to announce the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding which establishes the terms of a collaboration between the two institutions. The project will offer an innovative research and training program that responds to theoretical, practical and ethical imperatives surrounding the use of new and emerging digital technologies for the conservation and rehabilitation of built heritage in the Nordic countries. Graduate students, PhD candidates, and post-doctoral fellows will have the opportunity to collaborate on interdisciplinary research and training with some of the world’s leading academics and professionals working with the application of digital technologies for architectural heritage.

Factum Foundation is working with Skene Catling de la Peña while fundraising is ongoing to support the restoration of this great building, empower the local community and open up the AALTOSIILO to an international audience dedicated to recording and revealing industrial architecture and the changing environment of the region. The renovation work is scheduled to start in Spring 2021.

More on the project

Press release (English | Finnish)


Silo designed by Alvar Aalto in Oulu has new owners

© Otto Lowe

On Friday 21st August, the Alvar Aalto silo located in Oulu was purchased by Charlotte Skene Catling, from the architectural practice Skene Catling de la Peña, and Adam Lowe, founder of Factum Foundation.

Charlotte Skene Catling and Skene Catling de la Peña collaborate regularly with Adam Lowe and Factum Foundation on the public exhibition of their work, that merges technology and cultural preservation, in major exhibitions for institutions such as 'The Veronica Scanner: Live 3D Portraiture' at the Royal Academy, London, ‘Scanning Seti: The Regeneration of a Pharaonic Tomb’ at the Antikenmuseum Basel, and ‘Madame de Pompadour in the Frame’ at Waddesdon Manor. They are currently designing a permanent gallery in a Grade II listed building for the display of 17th century Spanish art and architecture in Bishop Auckland (as part of The Auckland Project, to open in 2021) and on converting the 16th century building in Seville in which the painter Diego Velázquez was born into a Museum and Interpretation Centre for the general public (The Casa Natal de Velázquez, to open in 2022). They are working together to try to save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London, England’s oldest manufacturing company, and to return a working 21st-century foundry to this internationally important heritage site.

The new owners look forward to fully restoring this great building and ensuring that it has a future. It was built as a cellulose silo by Alvar Aalto in 1931 but from the time the restoration is complete it will be used as a centre applying technology to preservation.