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Building a more condensed and comfortable city

The trend of urbanisation is continuing in Finland, as the population concentrates in areas where jobs are located and, in particular, the cities at the heart of such areas. According to the Urban Helsinki collective, growing cities should focus on condensing the urban structure. This would also provide opportunities for creating an even more comfortable and attractive urban environment.

 – In Finland, the Helsinki region has a particularly strong pull, but other major cities are also growing as a result of migration and natural population growth. The population is concentrating in major cities, and within these, the city centres are gaining new strength. A growing number of young people want to live in an urban environment, says Miika Norppa, a member of the Urban Helsinki collective.

Encounters between people promote the exchange of ideas and the creation of innovations, and they also help prevent social exclusion.

The aim of the Urban Helsinki collective is to help Helsinki and other Finnish cities respond to the challenges presented by population growth and, in particular, the wishes of young adults to live in city centre type surroundings.

The Urban Helsinki group says the best response to this challenge is condensing the urban structure. The concept for a more condensed city of the future is described in the Pro Helsinki 2.0 shadow city plan, Urban Helsinki’s alternative to the City of Helsinki’s official city plan.

 – In our shadow city plan, we propose that building a more condensed city with effective public transportation will make it possible to offer hundreds of thousands of new residents homes in a comfortable urban environment, says Timo Hämäläinen, a member of Urban Helsinki.

Space for meetings and innovations

In many Finnish cities, the areas where jobs are located are separate from the areas where people live. According to Norppa and Hämäläinen, it is important from the perspective of comfort and attractiveness that condensing the urban structure involves the development of new properties with offices and apartments as well as retail space on the ground level. Their services could be used in the daytime by people who work in the area, and in the evenings by the residents of the area.

 – A condensed and lively urban environment where various functions are blended together also provides opportunities for the development of a sense of community, Hämäläinen adds.

 – The benefits of the communal and social aspects supported by the urban environment are perhaps not yet fully understood. Encounters between people promote the exchange of ideas and the creation of innovations, and they also help prevent social exclusion, Norppa points out.

Hämäläinen characterises the existing urban environment as a space in which the walls of buildings enclose and hide everything that happens inside. The current large expanses of closed walls make the urban environment rather lifeless from the pedestrian perspective.

 – The more doors and services we add to buildings, the livelier the urban environment becomes, he explains.

Urbanisation is an ongoing process

  • In Finland, the process of urbanisation is still rather incomplete compared to Sweden, for example.
  • The Helsinki region, in particular, has a strong pull, and other cities are also seeing population growth. New jobs are concentrated in growing cities.
  • Urbanisation results in the need to create a condensed city in which residents enjoy life and businesses prosper.