One of my classes in Brussels dealt with looking into Immanuel Wallerstein’s world-systems approach. The message was to encourage into analyzing Europe and the world without our nation-state glasses on but instead holistically as one giant system. This path ultimately leads to discussions on issues that swirl around the word “globalization”. At the end of the class were asked to submit an essay on a topic of our liking related to the themes of the course. I wrote mine on the ongoing municipal reform process in Finland.
Looking at the reform project through a world-systems approach, even if only at a glance, inspired me to see a whole new dimension to the discussion around it. I might as well share my thoughts here too since I haven’t managed to write anything since starting my studies.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Finnish municipal reform project, you can find some more information on the website of the Ministry of Finance. But in essence, it is a project that was started after Finland’s 2011 parliamentary elections when the afterwards-formed coalition government outlined the execution of a significant nation-wide municipal reform as one of their policy priorities. The last details were just very recently apparently sorted out. Continue reading A Note on the Finnish Municipality Reform Project
It’s been far too long since my previous post, but I assure you this is not because I would have lost my interest in blogging. It’s just that I haven’t really found the time to write anything during summer. One might think that summer equals as plenty of opportunities to kick back and concentrate on reading and writing, but somehow that just never is the case during my holidays. I choose to travel, attend events of many sorts and generally do things I feel I otherwise don’t have enough time for.
Another excuse for my blog inactivity is that I’m about to begin a new interesting chapter in my life: I’ve been accepted to a one-year master’s program called European Urban Cultures (POLIS) that will be taught in four European cities during the upcoming academic year. My goal is to deepen my expertise in urban issues and do a bit of research on issues that I find interesting.
Going back to school also means that I’ll be working on a thesis throughout my study year. The rest (and the more interesting part) of this post is aimed at bringing out the general theme I’ve had in mind for my personal research project.
My blog has mostly focused on criticizing the outcomes of modernist urban planning and architectural design. I’ve also suggested that a better alternative would be to revive the use of time-tested interpretations of city-building. There’s not too much of this going on in Finland, but on a global scale the blog is just another outlet for anti-sprawl rhetoric. And the good thing is that to my experience, the number of like-minded urbanists around the world is all but decreasing in years to come. The message is getting louder: let’s make cities instead of sprawl. Continue reading Digging into Form-Based Urban Planning
In my about page I mention seeing the world in somewhat the same way as the New Urbanism movement does. My earlier posts reflect the movement’s philosophy in different ways, but this time I decided take a more straightforward approach to unfold what all this fuss is essentially about. The key idea that separates New Urbanism from the general let’s-build-more-bike-lanes kind of urbanism, so to speak.
The public (and by this I mostly mean the planning profession) usually associates New Urbanism with a kooky and nostalgic interest in copying historical architectural styles, especially here in Europe. And this is no wonder, because Europe is home to a few intensely traditional designs such as Poundbury in England and Jakriborg in Sweden. And they’ve repeatedly hit the headlines over the years. Continue reading There’s more to Cities than just Architecture – Why Kartanonkoski Is not Sankt Erikskvarteren
In the past two months I’ve worked with organizing two big seminars on wooden construction in Finland with minister-level attendance. Speakers ranging from governmental institutions and city-planners to the lumber industry unanimously established that wood is the way of the future.
Due to tightening carbon emission regulations, wooden construction is now being promoted as an effective measure in the battle against climate change. Not only is the carbon footprint of a wooden building a lot smaller than of a concrete one, but the material itself also ties down atmospheric carbon dioxide given that new trees will replace the ones used for construction. The Finnish government has also made it public policy to develop and support wood-based construction. Continue reading Finland Goes Back to the Future with Wooden Construction
The way we typically arrange things in cities today is based on a culture of automobility. Over the yeas, the planning profession has little by little accommodated the needs of our motorized companion in the built environment and up to a point where it’s not clear anymore whether it’s people or cars who get the last word in our plans. Continue reading Depaving the ‘Stroads’ to Hell
Good news for all of us urbanists: the townhouse (or terraced house) concept is creating a buzz in Helsinki.
Last Thursday I attended a seminar by the City Planning Department on the subject of introducing townhouses to the city fabric in a larger scale. The seminar was based on the city’s recently published townhouse report (unfortunately only available in Finnish). The report circles – just as the seminar did – around the bureaucratic implications for introducing the townhouse as an element for city-building. It also sums up the current plans for townhouses and the areas with most potential for future development. Continue reading Helsinki Welcomes Townhouses
The suburban city of Espoo to the west of Helsinki has major plans for the future. The most ambitious project is to transform the so-called T3 area consisting of Keilaniemi, Otaniemi and Tapiola into one big bustling, vital center. T3 refers to the three Finnish words “tiede, taide, and talous”, meaning science, art and economy. These three words all match with one of the areas in the plan: Keilaniemi with economy, Otaniemi with science and Tapiola with art. Continue reading The T3 Plan – a Facelift for Finland’s Epicenter of Modernist City Planning
One of the main reasons why there are little options for sprawl-like development today is zoning. Or more specifically, the way we zone.
A simple description of zoning is the practice of isolating land-uses into zones of their own. Residential areas, commercial areas, industrial areas, recreational areas and so forth. Cities will typically have their own zoning policies as well. These are instructions that regulate e.g. the types of housing allowed in a residential zone. Continue reading Zoning in on Zoning
Public art is a wonderful thing and installing more of it is always to root for. The kind you invest in and where you install it will however tell a lot about what the public and public policy makers value. Here, we value enjoying public art from our car.
If you would tour through Finland’s towns and cities by car, you will notice that we have put a lot of effort in making your drive a pleasant one. Just about every roundabout you meet will be decorated with an installment of some sort or at least with nice plantings. Not to mention larger art installments freeway-side or on crossing bridges. In inhabited areas, we will also make sure the grass next to the roads and ramps is nice and tidy. Continue reading Public Art – Through a Windshield