“Jeez, not another mall”, I thought out loud to myself when I read that Helsinki’s City Board unanimously approved to reserve a 2.5-hectare piece of land in Roihupelto, in the middle of Helsinki’s eastern suburbs for the development of a new shopping destination. Two developers want to see new big box stores and to transform an existing modern but run down industrial building into retail space. If all goes as planned, construction of the shopping complex could start already this year with the introduction of Motonet, a chain that markets itself as a “department store for car owners”.
The other developer already owns a shopping mall called Lanterna that specializes in furniture and interior design just opposite to the proposed development’s site. I hear the numbers of shoppers visiting Lanterna have lately showed a decreasing trend, so I suppose this new project is strongly linked to wishes of attracting more customers to the area. Continue reading Finnish Mall Enthusiasts Add Little Value to Local Economies
Last weekend I got invited to a couple’s house in Herttoniemi, one of Helsinki’s first suburbs, to experience the loud hum of a six-lane highway that runs just behind their house and is terrorizing their suburban dream (yes, it is loud). The city apparently hasn’t been interested in setting up a barrier to reduce noise despite it has expanded the road over the years. Furthermore, the area’s new infill development plan is suggesting too many new buildings to their neighborhood and right in their backyard too. The couple said they were proud Not-In-My-Backyard folk and don’t want changes to their surroundings. It seemed to be yet another NIMBY case. Continue reading Finnish Suburbs Await Inspiring Retrofits
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
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
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
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