1 / 2019 - Urbanity

Globally expanding cities are changing our understanding of urbanism and urbanity. Today, most Finns spend their entire lives in environments shaped by urbanism, which has also grown our expectations regarding the quality of urban culture and life in general.

What exactly is the urbanism or the ideal of urban life that appears in the visions and plans of Finnish cities? The issue contemplates the current urban centres and shopping mall projects, the design guidelines of urban spaces, and high-rise building, among other things. Currently, for example new urban centres and residential neighbourhoods drawing inspiration from the external features of traditional older cities, are under construction. At the same time, the vocabulary of urban discussions still includes more traditional words like marketplace, square, street and block.

The projects presented in the issue can be looked at as different cases of urban infill. Helsinki Central Library Oodi occupies the last plot available at Töölönlahti Bay, whereas Ratina Commercial Centre expands the city centre of Tampere. Airut Block in Jätkäsaari, Helsinki represents a new urban block typology. Student housing in Kumpula, Helsinki occupies a cramped block in the university campus and Trekoli, a wooden apartment building for seniors, tries to fit into an existing, traditional wooden townscape in Kuukkari, Pori.


Architects Sauerbruch Hutton / Matthias Sauerbruch, Louisa Hutton, Juan Lucas Young, Carlos Alarcón Allen, Optiplan Arkkitehdit / Jari Antila
Location Välimerenkatu, Jätkäsaari
Gross Area 29 800 m2
Completion 2018

Photos Kuvatoimisto Kuvio Oy
Interview with Carlos Alarcón Allen

The city is a good environment for people, however not just any kind of city. For centuries, cities formed organically around the everyday life of people, until in the late 19th century, when industrial functions deemed unhealthy were separated from all other functions. As the motorisation progressed in the 1900s, all functions were eventually separated. However, the big picture was forgot-ten, and with it, basic human needs.

Danish architect and urban designer Jan Gehl notes that we know a great deal about blue whales and mountain gorillas. However, the species homo sapiens seems not to engage as much. We have tracking information on flying squirrels and rattle grasshoppers, but what do we know about dogwalkers or citizens on walkers?

The physical environment is literally the foundation of wellbeing. A functional, pleasant and safe urban environment supports everyday life, encourages activity and connections to others. We have sufficient information on what constitutes a good environment. Nevertheless, we continue to inflict more damage. We know that driving destroys the groundwater, the air, the climate, and that it endangers our health. Regardless, we build more city for cars.

Even if we would change the habit right away and start to design the city holistically, people first, the cities have a reserve of outdated schemes and street plans to suffice for years. Who would venture to refuse to implement yet another car-oriented plan or to build a highway where there should really be a street? Who would be brave enough to take a time-out and to redraw these no-good plans? Would we succeed, if enough people from enough cities would join forces to do so together?

Alone, none of us can grapple the whole, as each one of us is restricted by our own subjective perspective. The clausal consequences are only visible through collaboration. Cities for people are done in collaboration with the people: planners, experts, politicians and the everyday citizens, each learning from the perspectives of others. Only together can we start building a more varied and multidisciplinary basis for planning and design, and achieve positive change. ↙

JOHANNA PALOMÄKI (architect SAFA) is the Planning Manager of the City of Espoo. She is interested in collaborative planning and would like to know which urban factors contribute to sustainable mobility patterns, child-friendliness and well-being.

Näköislehti: Site Logic