Nordic City Challenge developing Pasila: Bringing Nature into the Urban

2 marraskuun 2017

Winners of the multidisciplinary case competition Nordic City Challenge (NCC) 2017 were selected on the first of November at Hanasaari in Espoo. Jury selected student team “Eco Art 2” as winners of the challenge. The team describes their proposition “Polku” (“The Path”) in the following way:

“Pasila deserves better! Pasila is a diverse community without an opportunity to come together and express itself in the urban space. There is a stark disconnection between city and nature. We are proposing a solution based on movement, connectivity and art. Polku brings Finnish “luontopolku” or a nature path into the city. Pasila provides the elements of rough urban canvas and is a source of green in the adjacent central park. The Polku takes people on a journey through nodes of meeting places manifesting the history and existing seeds of community in the area. In Pasila we plant a seed for new Finnish urban identity, a natural marriage between nature and the city.  Pasila unites to build an identity through art, culture and entrepreneurial projects. The Polku connects east and west Pasila, as well as nature and the city. Different geographical areas will be connected through culture pieces and historical landmarks. Art and nature are used as tools to educate the people within eco-sustainability, awareness and stimulate them to be active themselves. By monumentalizing iconic landmarks in Pasila, the Polku will renew and refresh the dated postcard image of Helsinki.”

Members of the winning team are:

Eeva-Maija Ekman, Landscape Architecture, Aalto University

Thomas Rahbek, Global Health, University of Copenhagen

Aapo Markkula, Arts Management, Sibelius Academy, University of Arts

Madeleine Larsson, Social sciences, University of Gothenburg

Maria Viitanen, Spatial Planning & Transportation Engineering, Aalto University

Their presentation is available at: https://nordicsustainablecampusnetwork.wordpress.com/outcome-of-the-nordic-city-challenge-2017/

Also, the other team presentations will be available on the webpage. The presentations will be exhibited in the information and exhibition space for the city of Helsinki Laituri for 2-4 weeks starting at the 20th of November.

The organizers invited 24 students from five Nordic countries to participate in the multidisciplinary course in urban planning. The participants in the Nordic City Challenge represented for example the following academic disciplines: urban planning, architecture, landscape architecture, creative sustainability, real estate economics, environmental engineering, environmental ecology, global health, arts management, industrial design, social sciences and environmental and natural resources.

The project brought together students, teachers, professors, practitioners and leading experts from the Nordic countries to work on a real-life planning case. The case this year was Pasila area in Helsinki where the City of Helsinki has made plans for Ilmala square to become a new hub connecting new and old parts of Pasila. Before on-site work the students worked with a pre-task providing them scholarly knowledge on socio-ecological sustainability. The intensive days were held from the 29th of October until the first of November 2017 at Hanasaari – the Swedish-Finnish cultural centre. The course also included a walking tour and a panel discussion in Pasila.

The course highlighted the social-ecological approach to urban planning. During the course, the student teams created plans to develop Pasila by using art and design as a means of strengthening a shared understanding and identity of the Pasila neighborhood. In the proposals, the student teams focused on development of the Ilmala Square and introduced innovative ideas, which can be integrated into a general environmental art programme in Pasila.

The program included input from The Helsinki City Planning Department, local residents, NGOs as well as representatives from University of Helsinki and Aalto University.

The group work was facilitated by experienced researchers with different orientations into urban planning. The course work also included a written pre-assignment before the intensive course as well as a written report after the course on the learning experiences and case outcomes. On the final day, the student teams presented their solutions to the other teams and a jury. The jury evaluated the results and gave feedback.


Nordic City Challenge academic tutors:

Salla Jokela, University of Helsinki / Tourism / Political geography / Urban Studies

Meeri Karvinen, Aalto University and the Nordic Sustainable Campus Network (NSCN) / Sustainability in higher education/ Urban ecology

Katri Pulkkinen, Aalto University / Architecture / Social-ecological approach

Catalina Vaage, NCC 2016 alumnae, University of Copenhagen

Sari Mertanen, Climate-KIC visiting expert trainee


Nordic City Challenge jury members:

Aino Kostiainen, programme Coordinator (Art and Culture), Hanaholmen – the Swedish-Finnish cultural centre

Petri Kangassalo, member of board of Directors, Dodo ry

Meri Löyttyniemi, Senior advisor, Sustainable Development, Aalto University

Sami Moisio, Professor of Spatial Planning and Policy, University of Helsinki

Jalmari Sarla, Pasila grassroot activist

Elina Suonranta, Architect, city planning department, city of Helsinki


The project is administrated by Hanaholmen cooperation centre for Sweden and Finland. Organizers included also Urban Academy, University of Helsinki, Aalto University and Nordic Sustainable Campus Network (NSCN). The course is financially covered by Nordplus Horizontal and the project continues 2017 and 2018. The Nordic City Challenge 2018 is held in Copenhagen in Denmark. Preliminary themes are linking sustainable planning with health and urban gardening.

About the Nordic City Challenge:  https://nordicsustainablecampusnetwork.wordpress.com/nordic-city-challenge/

Kuva: Kuvatoimisto Kuvio Oy/City of Helsinki