Pro Nemus is an impressive building in the Äänekoski mill area. The Metsä Group visitor centre combines the versatility of wood with the latest technology.
"Pro Nemus is a window into Metsä Group's operations and the forestry sector as a whole," says Ilkka Poikolainen, Vice President, Äänekoski bioproduct mill.
"The centre is highly interactive, using the latest technology. Pro Nemus illustrates not only Metsä Group, but also the opportunities of the forest industry in general. Visitors can see the numerous uses of Finnish wood in practice," says Katariina Saelan, Metsä Group's Marketing Communications Manager.
The visitor centre emerged in Äänekoski on a tight schedule in 2018. The same mill area is also home to a Metsä Board paperboard mill, a Metsä Wood birch veneer mill and Metsä Spring's textile fibre demo plant.
"When the Äänekoski bioproduct mill was completed in 2017, demand for visits to mills increased dramatically. Pro Nemus offers a new way for Metsä Group to provide information about its operations and innovations in a memorable manner," says Saelan.
The location of the centre in a mill area is unusual because visitor centres, even internationally, are typically not located alongside mills.
"This is an extraordinary, yet effective, solution because visitors are also able to see the mill area and its proportions," says Poikolainen.
A prime example of wood construction
Designed by UKI Architects, the building itself is a prime example of expertise in the forest industry. The Kerto columns and beams and many other wood construction solutions have been left fully visible, and Metsä Group's products have been used in the interior design elements.
The exhibition facilities have around 20 activity points where visitors can take a walk in a virtual forest, use virtual reality glasses to take a peek into the operations of various mills, or operate a harvester in a simulator.
"Even experts will learn something new here, and schoolchildren are able to gain an understanding of forest management and the forest industry in Finland," says Poikolainen.
Pro Nemus has won national and international recognition for its architecture and exhibition design.
Stakeholders as visitors
Pro Nemus is intended for Metsä Group's various stakeholders. The centre has received visitors from Finland and abroad – forest owners, influencers and customers alike have found their way to Pro Nemus, as well as visitors from the EU and the third sector.
Metsä Group cooperates closely with educational institutions, and visits for students and pupils are organised regularly. Once a month, the centre is open for public visits organised by the Äänekoski town administration.
"We work to be a good neighbour and seek to offer everyone interested an opportunity to learn about our operations. The Äänekoski town administration is an important partner for us," says Poikolainen.
More than 15,000 people have visited Pro Nemus since it opened in summer 2018. Presentations on the exhibition points are available in Finnish, English and Chinese.
"The forest industry is regarded as a very traditional industry, however, Pro Nemus showcases how sustainable and modern a sector the forest industry actually is. We have received a great deal of feedback on how the centre changes visitors' impressions of the sector," says Saelan.
The centre also provides an overview of innovations and development trends in the field. Pro Nemus is being developed continuously to ensure that it remains current in terms of both content and technology.
"We work to actively contribute to the development of Finnish forest use, today and tomorrow. The visitor centre enables us to show how this is done," Saelan points out.