Final Critique

Green areas and building pressure


Your main point of view?

How to integrate green ares into infill development in a way that supports ecological aspects as well as social sustainability

Your most important conclusion/result?

Ecologically functional green areas usually demand space or connectivity (as well as heterogenic vegetation structure). This can be an issue in densely build areas.

The most important thing you learned through your work in Studio 1?

I learned to look for other perspectives outside my own field.

If you were to introduce your article in ONE sentence to someone outside your field, what would that sentence be?

Considering ecological values and their benefits more in green areas in infill development

Studio 1 – Heading for a more complete picture of the research topic

United nations (2018) estimate that in 2050, 68% of world’s population are living in cities. The movement from rural areas to urban areas is increasing steadily and it is most evident in developing countries. The level of urbanization is higher in developed countries and in Europe is roughly 74 %. (United Nations, 2018)

At the same time, the world’s biodiversity is decreasing. According to Global Biodiversity Outlook 4 (2014) the status of biodiversity will continue to decline and the pressure on biodiversity continues to increase at least until to 2020. Although society has taken action in forms of national plans and commitments, this hasn’t been enough to stop the biodiversity loss. There might be time lags between taking positive actions and the positive outcomes or the responses have been insufficient relative to pressure. (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2014)

Although urbanization is not the biggest cause of biodiversity loss (“– drivers linked to agriculture account for 70 per cent of the projected loss of terrestrial biodiversity”, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2014) national and regional planning as well as national commitments and legislation play a crucial role in conserving ecological connectivity and ecosystems in urban and rural areas.

Finland is following the trend of urbanization and even if we have a rather good state of biodiversity in Helsinki area measured in City Biodiversity Index (CBI), that doesn’t mean that there is no room for improvements (Helsingin kaupunki, 2018). My research question is linked to biodiversity and green areas in urban context (in Haaga area). Especially with increasing building pressure produced by growing number of inhabitants in Helsinki and improvements to city’s infrastructure (light rail, city boulevards etc). I will discuss this global phenomenon in national and regional level and since my study track is plan based, one of my objectives is to produce design in which I suggest a solution to some of these issues.

City of Helsinki is aiming for denser city structure and to increase housing stock by 6000 new apartments annually. In addition, Helsinki has been developing city boulevard – concept that affects number of areas in the Helsinki region including Haaga.


My research question is still work in progress, but I was thinking of the possibilities of infill development to provide some ecological benefits such as ecological connections and ecosystem services. It is unfortunate that a portion of ecosystems (and biodiversity) is lost during infill and construction projects and I was hoping to find possibilities to somehow negate some of the negative effects. My objective would probably be something like examining ways in which infill could support the ecosystems and green areas in Haaga (note that this is not in any way mean that we should not protect green areas or that for example green roofs could replace lost areas! It is not a free pass to destroy forests and such).


STRUCTURE (a draft of which I would like to include)

Short introduction (the problem, global/regional level, current trends)

Problem on national and regional level (Haaga spesigficly)

Theoretical background (why are green areas important and such)

Research question





I was thinking of using GIS data as a tool to map habitat types and land cover (corine data) to create an overview of the Haaga area and how it is linked to Helsinki region’s green system. Also, theoretical background would be based on suitable literature and research (I have listed and used few in this post and they can be found in the references).

The design would probably be created on certain area in Haaga and I would like to get into detail with the plan (not to create large green network system, but a detailed plan on an infill area). The area I have in mind is the Vihdintie city boulevard area, since it’s part of the new regional plan and the city boulevard – concept as well as part of the green finger system in Helsinki. This development in itself creates a conflict which I would like to examine.


Loftness, Vivian, editor. Haase, Dagmar, editor . Sustainable Built Environments. SpringerLink (Online service); 2013

Thompson, J. William ; Sorvig, Kim. Sustainable landscape construction : a guide to green building outdoors. 2008

Cook, Edward A. ; Lier, Hubert N. van. Landscape planning and ecological networks. Elsevier cop. 1994.

Treweek, Jo ; ebrary, Inc. Ecological impact assessment. Blackwell Science 1999.

Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Global Biodiversity Outlook 4. 2014. Montréal, 155 pages.

United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2018). World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision

Haaga – Transition

The Transition task was made with a group consisting of three students: Anna Ahlgren, Babak Firoozi Fooladi and Paula Piirainen


The first animation (which isn’t working here for some reason) expresses the development of residential areas in Haaga from 1906 to 2013. The points depict residential buildings and the size expresses the total floor area of the building. Buildings built before 1906 are not shown, so the animation only deals with the development after 1906.

As you can see from the animation the rapid development phase started in the 50s. Around 1950-1970 there were a lot of small residential buildings build as well as in the 90s. In early 2000, fewer residential buildings were built but the total floor area of the individual buildings was greater.

This kind of animation is good for quickly assessing the area: the main directions for development, in which year or years the development took place and where it is centered. Another thing that is also visible is that after the 90s, there weren’t any new residential districts created: only infill development in the existing areas.

Zoning map

In the Zoning map the areas, which are built mainly in the same era, are outlined and marked with individual gradients/colors. The infill development is not shown or depicted in this map.

But why are we interested in zones?

-The buildings and residential areas built in the same era might have similar characteristics, because of a current stylistic trend, traditions or region. In addition, we can divide the development of Haaga into decades or other intervals to make clearer, which areas were developed and when.

Bubble chart

This chart represents the data of the buildings and their floor area. Using the GIS data and further processing of that data in excel provided us with this chant. in the y-axis we have the count of the buildings built in that year and on the x-axis, we have the year. Size of the bubble is showing the average are generated by buildings built in that specific year.

by examining the chart we can see the main construction and development of Haaga actually started from the 1950s. In the beginning, the buildings were small in large counts, after that we see in the 1970s bigger houses in smaller counts. but there is a spike in 1990 in the count and small houses. after that, we reach the era we have inward development, many houses built in these years were massive in size, but smaller in counts.

In this chart, we examined the population changes and buildings data from 1997 to 2013 (the years we had consisting and reliable data in GIS format).

There are three periods that we have some major changes. the yellow area shows a jump in floor per capita. we also have a drop in population as well. so we may conclude many families turned smaller and new houses were occupied by small families.

In the second period (orange ones) population still decreases, but many new houses are generated. Also, the change in capita is massive in its scale. so we can assume children and next generation have moved to other places and many new buildings are filled with small families.

the third period says something different. population and building increases, but the ratio drops significantly. this means the new housing must be small apartments for families. this explanation is also aligned with market demands since Haaga has a good access to city center and counted as a good place for working class according to monocentric city model.

Historical pictures

We searched old pictures from Haaga and managed to find quite a lot from the 20th century. Anna from our group searched newer ones from Instagram and discusses the meaning of these in her blog 

We did a little bit of comparing, but it was difficult to find pictures from the same places due to changes in the landscape and the lack of clear landmarks. Also, pictures on Instagram are usually from places or things people regard beautiful or worth of capturing photos, but the old pictures felt somehow more random because they weren’t meant to be in someone’s personal photo blog.  As in Instagram, all the pictures are ones that people have chosen to put up there for everyone to see.
Moving back to the older pictures, this particular picture caught our eye:

1953 . Haagan raitiovaunu Kivihaan kohdalla Haagassa Nuijamiestentien varrella.

This is a picture from Haaga during the 1953 when there was a tram line operating from Etu-Töölö to Haaga. The picture tells us quite a bit about the housing, vehicles, vegetation, roads, density and most importantly, everyday life. Pictures can tell us something that statistics or GIS analysis can’t. They can dive into the eye-level of people and show us how the world was seen in that era, but of course, we can’t feel the atmosphere or hear their thoughts.  Gis analysis can provide important tools for analyzing the “bigger picture” and the old photographs just add to that giving the “big picture” more details.

Reconstruction of Haaga – Studio 1

The task was to create an image of Haaga before the 17th century. The task was interesting (at least to Finnish speaking students), because it required searching information from various sources such as historical maps and documents. People from different backgrounds knew different information sources and I was introduced to several new archives and open source data services. The task was also quite difficult because we didn’t have that much time and the information is scattered to several different information sources. In our group, we thought about all the different information you can gather and were you can find it. For example, you can use historical documents and maps to determine where were the settlements and other functions as well as how the area is situated in comparison with for example the capital or village center. Historical documents such as letters, parish registers, old censuses and stories can tell something about the everyday life or the income or the population of the area during a certain period. I am only familiar with historical maps and it was useful to learn about new methods to use.

Since my field is landscape architecture I am used to using historical maps as well as open data sources like Paikkatietoikkuna or Maankamara which offer spatial data. Spatial data helps to analyze the landscape, soil, vegetation, topography, natural resources and many other features present in the landscape. It also helps to pinpoint where for example the historical features (such as settlements, villages, agricultural activities) have taken place and place them correctly on the map of the area which you area analyzing, since the historical maps are often hand drawn and especially the older ones are not that accurate. When you analyze for example soil, climate and topography of a selected area, you can draw certain conclusions. For example, in Haaga, there is a lot of areas with moraine and bedrock close to surface of the ground. These areas are optimal for Mesic heath forests (Tuore kangasmetsä; forest types should be confirmed on the spot, so these are just assumptions). There are also a few places with soil consisting of mainly clay. If there has been agricultural activity in the 17th century, it has probably occurred in the areas which consist mainly of clay since it is optimal for farming. These are just examples since I did not analyze the landscape thoroughly. It is important to keep in mind that in addition to soil quality, other aspects such as topography affect the landscape and the distribution of different human activities in the area.

In addition to previously mentioned features, we are interested also in the changes occurring in the area for examples the chances in land use. Changes in land use might tell us something about the development of the region or society (for example villages/cities growing or a shift from agricultural land use to industrial).