A couple of months ago I attended a seminar for planning-oriented geographers and the event has kept on circulating in my thoughts because of one comment in particular. During the discussion section, one of the speakers, Marketta Kyttä, was asked what in her opinion will most likely stand out as the most bizarre legacy of contemporary Finnish urban planning practice. Something which future generations will stare at wondering “what on earth were they thinking”. Her answer was our obsession with shopping centers and malls. Touché, I thought.
A clear-cut separation of commercial services from the rest of the city, typically in the form of a shopping mall, certainly is one distinct feature that has become a defining element in our city-making tradition during the modern era. And despite recent urban renaissance movements in the larger cities, there is little indication that we are anywhere near giving up this pattern of urban development. In my opinion much more attention should be targeted at this issue because mallification is very counterproductive if we truly want to create neighborhoods with an urban atmosphere. Continue reading Help Cure Finland’s Mall Fever
Many urbanists here in Helsinki have recently needed to double-check whether they’re dreaming or really wide awake. This is because last month Helsinki’s City Planning Department published new documentation on what the city will look like in 2050 and what are the basic pillars of the new city plan. Amazingly, the grand visions that have been in the air in recent years are again one notch closer to becoming reality: “In the Helsinki of 2050, densely constructed suburban centres will be connected by rail traffic. The downtown area will have expanded along the motorways, which have been converted into city boulevards. […] The Helsinki of the vision is more densely populated in all areas than that of today. New construction is mainly located around the suburban railway stations. The suburbs have become centres of urban living, services and workplaces (source)”. Continue reading Urban Helsinki Versus the Building and Construction Industry
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
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