Rauno Ruonansuu Ltd., Architects
(Arkkitehtitoimisto Rauno Ruonansuu Oy)


Architectural firm Rauno Ruonansuu Ltd. is situated in Kemi, Finland. Ruonansuu has been an entrepreneur since 1983 and although he works on all kinds of architectural projects, his most famous is the SnowCastle of Kemi. Re-built each year, 2013 marks the 18th SnowCastle, and the 11th designed by Ruonansuu. It opened on January 26th.  We chatted with Ruonansuu to find out what it’s like to design a castle made of snow!


Who are you, where are you located?


I’m an architect with a private enterprise (Arkkitehtitoimisto Rauno Ruonansuu Oy) in Kemi, Finland. I became an entrepreneur in 1983 and graduated from the University of Oulu in 1987.

I do different kinds of design, taking on big and small assignments, however I tend to specialise in social and health care designing such as hospital renewals etc. That’s something I have done pretty much since the start of my architecture career. And for about a decade now I have been the architect of the SnowCastle of Kemi.


Do you have employees?

Right now I work alone because it seems to suit me best. I find that working on my own means that I don’t have to make compromises all the time, so I can focus better on the work itself. But for the yearly SnowCastle project I collaborate with the contractor IP-Heikkilä Oy.


What is unique about what you do?

Not all architects can say they have designed a SnowCastle!  I’ve designed 11.  Actually it is very difficult to find an architect who would be familiar with designing that kind of structure.

The SnowCastle of Kemi is a large and complex snow structure. It takes quite a bit of know-how from an architectural design and construction technology point of view. The SnowCastle is built entirely of snow and ice, nothing else. In snow structures you can only use pressure-resistant designs such as vaults, domes and arches, as well as vertical structures. The Finnish Association of Civil Engineers has even released a building standard (RIL 218-2001) for designing and building snow structures. In fact this standard was strongly influenced by the SnowCastle of Kemi and its building experiences in the early years.


Rabbit from the Hat

Is your location important to your creativity?

Well, thank god the SnowCastle is situated in Kemi! I have always lived in Kemi, apart from when I was studying, so I know the place very well and what kind of conditions and factors you have to consider in designing here. For me, locality is a clear advantage.


What inspires you?

Together with the contractor we got the idea to use different themes in designing the SnowCastle each year. The first theme-based SnowCastle was built in 2006 and this year’s theme is Fantasy. So for the SnowCastle these themes are my inspiration. The SnowCastle project is a nice “snack” among the other, more ordinary, work I do. We take the designing process seriously but there’s also an element of playfulness involved. The designing is largely a visual project. Of course we have to take into account that the SnowCastle is a public building and therefore safety is our number one concern.


How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful? How do you continue to grow and learn?

Long-term cooperation with the contractor of the SnowCastle (IP-Heikkilä Oy) has made it possible for us to develop new and different techniques in snow and ice building year by year. For me it’s very important to trust the contractor and to know their abilities: the actual building period for the SnowCastle is very tight and it’s easier for me to do architectural designing when I know exactly what the contractor is able to do and how quickly.


What are your plans for the future?

At this point, after designing 11 SnowCastles, there’s no uncertainty in my work. I know what I’m doing and what kind of things I have to take into consideration. Our contract with the City of Kemi is up for renewal again this year but we (the contractor and I) are optimistic that we’ll get to continue our collaboration over the coming years. So hopefully I’ll be designing a new SnowCastle this summer.


Here’s also a link to one news (18.12.2012) about the SnowCastle where you can see for example architectural drawings: http://yle.fi/uutiset/kemin_lumilinnassa_seikkailevat_keijut_ja_lohikaarmeet/6420136
Here’s a link to an article of the opening ceremonies on Saturday (with photos): http://www.pohjolansanomat.fi/PS-Uutiset/1194791290264/artikkeli/lumilinnan+avajaisiin+jonotettiin.html