This is a summary of a joint project with Mathew Page.

Please refer to full document at this link for assessment purposesStudio 1 Exercise 3- Mathew Page & Katie Butcher



The existence of cultural and leisure activities in a neighbourhood not only increases the liveness of an area, but can also promote a sense of community and aide in social cohesion. Leisure and cultural services promote health, wellbeing, education and provide support for local residents. In any given neighbourhood, it is fundamental that the amount of services available to residents match the local needs and demands. Furthermore, the diversity of services on offer should correlate with the socio-demographic characteristics of residents within the area. Facilities for cultural and leisure activities that cater for different demographics may be a major contributor in retaining and attracting new residents to a suburb. As a suburb and its residents age, the type of services available should also diversify to match needs of different life stages. There have also been a multitude of studies which detail the negative impacts of social isolation and loneliness (e.g. Gariepy et al., 2014 and Rajaratnam et al, 2008) and having a comprehensive range of services for residents matched to their needs can go some way to reducing this and provide a sense of community belonging.

Previous student blogs from Anna, Karolina, Kamilla, Tuomas and Nandara have written about Haaga’s polycentricity, lack of community feeling and struggles with identity. Thus far, cultural and leisure services have not been identified or examined within the work of the student group. For this task we aim to investigate the number and diversity of services in relation to the current population of Haaga. The services examined were chosen due to the community benefit gained in terms of health, both physical and mental, and for their ability to facilitate encounter and community cohesion. We seek to determine whether the density of available services is adequate for the urban environment of Haaga and that the range of services cater to the demographics of residents.


The City of Helsinki maintains an online resource called Helsinki Service Map which allows searches for services within Helsinki. To assess the provision of cultural and leisure spaces we utilised this map to filtered for only the Cultural, Sports and Leisure Services in Helsinki Metropolitan Area, and then exported the Keyhole Markup Language (KML) data for these services which we then loaded into QGIS.

The resulting list of Cultural, Sport and Leisure Services after trimming the data contained some results which we deemed unrelated to the exercise. We removed the following categories which did not fit our criteria: school gymnasiums (hire fee and limited availability), churches (we saw places of worship as a separate category), hostels and hotel facilities (mainly cater to in-house guests and not the local community), sculptures (whilst an asset, we saw as outside of scope). We then proceeded to classify each service into larger categories.

We categorised the age group brackets by grouping ages that we determined would have similar service needs as per below:

Age Group
Pre-school = (0-6 Years)
Child = (7-12 years)
Teenage = (13-15 years)
Adult = (16-64 years)
Retirees = (65 years plus)


Results and Discussion


There are 50 services in total which fell within our criteria for a cultural or leisure service. Services were quite evenly distributed with 29 in Pohjois- Haaga and 21 in Etelä- Haaga. Figure 1 suggests there are four main service clusters; a large cluster in Etelä- Haaga, two clusters along the border between Etelä- Haaga and Pohjois-Haaga and a fourth cluster in the north of Pohjois-Haaga. This heat map highlights that the provision of cultural and leisure service in Haaga is also polycentric, supporting previous student blog posts. Across Haaga there was a service density of one service per 74,466m2 which equated to 424 people per service (see Table 1). Despite having a smaller population and less land area, Pohjois-Haaga has more services than Etelä-Haaga (559 people per service, compared to 326 people per service).





The 50 cultural and leisure services matching our criteria within Haaga can be broken down as follows:

  • 12 Playgrounds
  • 3 Outdoor Parks
  • 3 Outdoor Gym
  • 1 Library
  • 2 Indoor Sport
  • 2 Care/Support Services
  • 27 Sports Fields

Outdoor sports fields were by far the largest category represented in Haaga with over 50% of the cultural and leisure services. This is due in a large part to the Extensive Sports Park which has three artificial fields, an athletics / long-jump track, a shot put ring, two skate rinks and a recreational training area. This is in addition to the playground and outdoor gym which appear in other categories.

Note-  Pohjois- Haaga Library is located just outside the boundaries of Haaga. This reinforces the importance of the borders which are used when calculating densities. Indeed we know from site visits that there is a significant activity hub around the Pohjois- Haaga railway station – located closer to Lasilla. There may be many services here or near other boundaries which we have not examined in this exercise.

Of the cultural and leisure services, 45 were located outside and only 5 indoors. Outdoor facilities may be seasonal and cold weather may hinder use and participation in the winter. The lack of indoor facilities in Haaga may also make use and participation more difficult for those that are more sensitive to weather conditions. Whilst it is encouraging that there are so many active leisure and sports fields/facilities, these types of activities do require a certain degree of mobility. There is a lack of both cultural services and passive leisure facilities. There were only two care support services and one indoor sport facility providing passive sports such as table tennis. Given that 18% of the population are aged over 65 years old, there could be a need for additional facilities to cater for this age group (Table 2). Kamilla posted previously about a Cinema which used to exist in Haaga. It is these types of cultural services which are currently missing from Haaga. Also, with an aging population, more pressure will be placed on passive services, this should be considered in future municipal plans for the Haaga.


Through our analysis we became aware of the difficulty of making accurate assumptions about services each age group would use. People over the age of 6 may still enjoy playground facilities and this service also provides an informal gathering place for parents. Furthermore, there is evidence that older people in Finland remain active later in life, and that participation in competitive sport actually increases between 50 and 64 years of age. (Gratton, Rowe & Veal, 2011).

Further Analysis Could Include:


Accessibility was an important measure, as we know that 18% of the population is of retirement age. Obtaining detailed information about those with accessibility and special needs was difficult due to controls on data collection, privacy and ethical reasons. Likewise, whilst the Helsinki Services Map does include some information on accessibility of the service premises for non-able bodied people, the data is incomplete and therefore cannot be reliably used for our purposes. For these reasons we omitted special needs accessibility from this exercise.

Language and Background

We established that 11% of residents do not speak Finnish, Sami or Swedish. Further research could be conducted into the programs of the services to see the range of services being offered which cater to those who speak other languages or come from different backgrounds.

Public/Private and Pay-Barriers

We attempted to categorise the services in terms of whether they were Public or Private and whether a fee was required. This became quite a difficult task as the Municipal Sports Facilities were able to be hired (privatised) at certain times and some facilities require a membership, both of which usually also incur a charge. There were only two purely private services on our list – and these were both private gyms. Due to the large numbers of outdoor and free sports facilities, we kept these on our list as they may cater to a different clientele.

Limitations of Scope / Cross- border Movement

This type of analysis does not factor in cross-border movement. There may be other cultural and leisure services just beyond the Haaga border and it is not realistic that residents are confined to a suburb boundary.  For example, it was mentioned earlier that Pohjois- Haaga library does not fall into the boundaries used by the Helsinki Service Map, however it is likely that residents living in the north-east of Haaga would frequent this establishment. Also, Keskuspuisto (Central Park) is highly accessible just to the east of Haaga and contains may free leisure activities.

Service Capacity

This exercise has not looked at the capacity of the services in any rigorous detail. The amount of space or number of places available in each service, as well as the regularity of activities being arranged impact accessibility. For example, if the care centres run excursions once a week with only 8 people allowed it does not cater for many of the residents in this age bracket etc. This would warrant further investigation if this study was to be extended.
Rare leisure facilities such as the enormous extensive sports park will be in competition from many other suburbs. As outlined above, the catchment area of these services can be wider than administrative boundaries and the capacity would therefore be under pressure, potentially limiting access for local residents.

Benefits of clustering different services
An interesting topic for further research would be to determine if any added benefit is derived from the clustering of different cultural and leisure services. Do clustered services provide community benefit beyond more evenly geographically dispersed services? Is it better to cluster like services, or would the presence of a diverse mix of services in a particular area promote residents encountering people they usually wouldn’t come into contact with, and promote inclusiveness? Can grouping services close together encourage greater collaboration and sharing of common resources?


Density as a measure can be informative in reviewing concentrations of ‘things’ in any given area. When looking at services, it can be effective in assessing the geographic spread and accessibility of services across a city or neighbourhood. When dealing with something as broad as cultural and leisure services, it very quickly becomes difficult to classify and quantify the services, as each institution offers different programs at different times, some services are only accessible to certain people, and the barriers for entry can be difficult to assess (pay barrier etc).
Diversity of services looks at the range of available services and it can be useful to match the diversity of the population (age, gender, background, education etc) to the provision of services (e.g. swimming classes accessible to the elderly). This requires a large time investment to review each services individual programs and schedules and inaccuracies can creep in whenever making assumptions about the services people actually use based solely on their socio-demographic characteristics. Therefore, further research would be needed to make conclusions about how services are used and what is lacking across Haaga.

It was also difficult to establish the best representation method for the density findings and statistics. Using a geographical approach (services per square kilometre or average surface area per service) were not instinctively interpretable results. The number of people competing for services seemed more useful, however as each person has different needs and preferences and geographical realities, a ‘typical person’ cannot be defined. People may also use multiple services, or none at all. They may use services outside the administrative boundaries of Haaga, or people may cross them to use services within Haaga. We found there were 424 people in competition for each service in Haaga, which does not seem to be an insufficient amount of services, given our narrow focus on only cultural and leisure facilities. However, some services may be overutilized compared to others and the limitations discussed above should also be considered. Overall, these measures can be a useful to provide a preliminary overview on the amount and diversity of cultural and leisure services in Haaga. However, areas for further research have been identified in order to provide comprehensive information to aid future planning in the area.


Gariepy, G., Blair, A., Kestens, Y., & Schmitz, N. (2014). Neighbourhood characteristics and 10-year risk of depression in Canadian adults with and without a chronic illness. Health & Place, 30, 279–286.
Gratton, C., Rowe, N. & Veal, A. (2011). International Comparisons of Sports participation in European Countries: an Update of the COMPASS Project, European Journal for Sport and Society, 8:1-2, 99-116, DOI: 10.1080/16138171.2011.11687872
Rajaratnam, J. K., O’Campo, P., Caughy, M. O., & Muntaner, C. (2008). The Effect of Social Isolation on Depressive Symptoms Varies by Neighborhood Characteristics: A Study of an Urban Sample of Women with Pre-School Aged Children. International Journal of Mental Health & Addiction, 6(4), 464–475.
The Service Map 2018, Information Technology and Communications Division, City of Helsinki. Available online at:

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