Goodbye underperforming asphalt. Bringing urban feel to the suburbs is now officially on the horizon in the Helsinki area.
In September a community-based do-it-yourself initiative called Myyrmäki-liike (Myyrmäki Movement) invited me to talk about contemporary urban development trends. They had staged an event to generate discussion around a set of nine proposals to transformation the commercial center of Myyrmäki, a 1970s & 80s railway suburb in Vantaa. The goal is to retrofit a big parking lot into mixed-use urban blocks.
I didn’t hesitate to accept the invite because there’s a lot to get excited about in this project. Continue reading Retrofitting Suburbia – A New Life for Vantaa’s Myyrmäki
“No nation can escape its geography” said Percy Spender, the Australian Minister for External Affairs back in 1950. He was talking about the need to reinvent Australia’s relationship towards Asia to make the most out of the nation’s factual geographical position and not see itself only as belonging to the circuits of the old British Empire. This same line of thought obviously applies to cities as well. I got a first-hand experience of this around the turning of the year when I had the pleasure to visit a good friend of mine in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The city naturally wasn’t repositioning its foreign and regional policy like the Aussies were but its relationship with River Ljubljanica. Continue reading Helsinki’s ‘Daughter of the Baltic Sea’ Brand Needs a Ljubljana-Style Reboot
Practice what you preach, they say. As of late 2013 and early 2014 I’m excited to reveal that this is exactly what I’ve been doing. Helsinki’s City Planning Department is in the process of expanding the city into a 5.5 hectare piece of land on the northern edge of a neighborhood called Pikku Huopalahti that now hosts obsolete university buildings and green buffer zones. I’ve had the privilege of being a member of a seven-strong team of passionate and creative urbanists who have taken the initiative of illustrating our own interpretation of what the area could look like in the future. More than anything, we are determined to introduce the “urban” back into Helsinki’s urban planning. Our message with this plan is ‘no more sprawl’. Continue reading Ten Reasons why Helsinki Needs Do-It-Yourself Urban Planning
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
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