Population pressure on green areas in Helsinki – GIS Practical 1

The assignment for the GIS and visual tools course last week was to create a map depicting the population pressure on green areas in the small areas of Helsinki and include an analysis of the map.

Looking at the second map, the highest population pressure to green areas per square kilometer are in the city center, and the lowest in the outskirts, mainly the Ulkosaaret (archipelago) and the vast forest lands bordering Sipoo (Ultuna). This was expected, since the city center host many people and lots of buildings but few green areas, as city centers usually do, whereas the forests in Eastern Helsinki are scarcely populated. When moving out from the city center the population pressure is significantly lower, and that is also expected: less built environments and less people means that there is space for more nature in between.

One of the Helsinki small areas sticks out on the map: Kluuvi. Kluuvi is the core area of the city center, where the Helsinki central railway station and some of the biggest department stores and buildings are located. This means that there are not that many apartment buildings, and so fewer people share the same green space. In addition to this, Kluuvi holds both the Töölönlahti area and the Kaisaniemi park, and these are considerably large areas of urban green space in the city center. Kaivopuisto in the south-east corner of the Helsinki peninsula is another example: it is an area that consists mostly of a large park with relatively few inhabitants.

On the other hand, thousands of people pass through Kluuvi and the city center every day, or they work in the area. These people might spend a third of their day in this area, which means that the amount of people spending time in Kluuvi during both day and night (clubs, bars, travelers, etc) is significantly higher than just the amount of inhabitants in the area.

North of the city center the population pressure is lowered by the big central park. What I consider the most interesting here are the areas that are being built, because those are the areas that can still be affected and altered with important factors and perspectives in mind. When the population pressure is not yet too big and there are still green areas to preserve, maintain and plan well, planners should proceed with caution. On the other hand the city center clearly needs some innovative urban green space planning, since much of the land is already built upon. There are several examples of green walls, floating or climbing gardens and the usage of e.g. rooftops or other unused spaces to increase the amount of green space in a city.

When planning an area this kind of a visualization is important, since it tells the same story that the numbers would do, but in a way that is easier to comprehend. Planners and constructors should take notice as well as the politicians. This map is a good example of the kind of multidisciplinary knowledge that is needed when making decisions that affect people’s daily lives. A static map, however, does not tell us anything about the change in the area over time, of how people perceive the area or what the green areas are used for and if they are accessible. This can be seen on the first map, which shows the green areas of Helsinki.

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