Tag Archives: Urban Planning

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

A Note on the Finnish Municipality Reform Project

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

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

The T3 Plan – a Facelift for Finland’s Epicenter of Modernist City Planning

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

Zoning in on Zoning

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