Tag Archives: Helsinki

Design First or Last? A Fork in the Road for Helsinki’s New City Plan

In a couple of my previous posts, I’ve stressed my amazement with the quick change in attitude among Helsinki’s urban planners. The message from the planning authorities is that they have chosen to increasingly question the conventional modernist planning ideology and are now actively seeking to add elements of a more urbanist approach to Helsinki’s upcoming steering document, the new city plan.

Now that the first excitement is slowly beginning to settle down, it’s time to start thinking ahead. And what I’ve been thinking about this time touches upon the management of links between planning ideologies and planning practice. Namely, I would like to see one classic planning debate enter the Helsinki discussions, because A) it has not been discussed at all in this process; and B) it plays a significant role in the on-the-ground implementation of the new city plan. Continue reading Design First or Last? A Fork in the Road for Helsinki’s New City Plan

Help Cure Finland’s Mall Fever

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

Urban Helsinki Versus the Building and Construction Industry

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

Insights into Townhouse Development in Helsinki and Stockholm

Back in the winter of 2012 I wrote about Helsinki’s interests towards introducing townhouses as a new housing concept. The topic is interesting, because the townhouse building type doesn’t have a history in Helsinki like it does in Central and Western Europe. Despite grand visions, only a few developments labeled as townhouses have been built so far.

Later on at my previous employer, we organized a seminar to create discussion around the topic. To add some out-of-the-box flavored thinking on the issue, we invited a speaker from Stockholm to share insights from there as structures referred to as ”townhouses” had also gained more attention in the Swedish capital.

Townhouses in Malminkartano, Helsinki.
Townhouses in Malminkartano, Helsinki.

Continue reading Insights into Townhouse Development in Helsinki and Stockholm

The Pedestrianization of Vaasankatu – City Enlivenment Gone Astray

My intense year of studying around Europe is now officially over. This means a farewell to essays, papers and exams and a resurrection for my blogging activities. Armed with an updated arsenal of perspectives and experiences, I’ll try my best to keep on updating this blog with thoughts on Finnish cities and urban planning. I’ll start off by sharing some thoughts about a planning initiative in my neighborhood in Helsinki: the pedestrianization of Vaasankatu (Vaasa street). Feels good to be back!

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In the beginning of this year, Helsinki’s City Planning Department decided to transform Vaasankatu, a 0.5km-long street in the wider neighborhood of Kallio to a pedestrian street from the beginning of June until the end of September. This decision was preceded by discussions on introducing more pedestrianized streets in the inner city to increase “vibrancy” in central Helsinki. At first the project was turned down due to the investment costs of transforming the car lanes into pedestrian-friendly space. But proponents of the initiative suggested that the concept could be tried by simply just blocking car access to the street. And the project took off. In the next phase, the experiences gained this summer from a pedestrianized Vaasankatu will be evaluated as the basis for future decision-making about going all the way with the idea. Continue reading The Pedestrianization of Vaasankatu – City Enlivenment Gone Astray

Finland Goes Back to the Future with Wooden Construction

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

Depaving the ‘Stroads’ to Hell

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

Helsinki Welcomes Townhouses

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