Task 4 – The Changing Age Structure and Planning – Question of Ageing

Even though the aim of the midterm exercise was not to start off by looking at the future population projections, I will have to slightly touch them at this point. As has become clear during the first half of the semester, planning is a demanding and future oriented task. The same goes also for the population projections; even though conventionally a great deal of planning is done according to them, one must always keep in mind that projections are only general assumptions of the uncertain future, that rely on uncertain expectations which are likely to change.

The development of Haaga is strongly knit to the greater developments in Helsinki and Finland. In this blogpost, instead of focusing on the total growing number of residents of Haaga, the focus of planning is on the changing age structure. One of the main trends that has received a lot of attention in general discussion in the past years considers the ageing population of Finland. According to Statistics Finland “The proportion of persons aged 65 or over in the population is estimated to rise from the present 19.9 to 26 per cent by 2030 and to 29 per cent by 2060”. This will have a major weakening impact also on the demographic dependency ratio of Finland (Statistics Finland 2015). Even though we are only speculating with projections, it feels that some attention should be paid to this question. If the proportion of elderly people of the entire population is becoming that large, how should this problem be taken into consideration in city planning? The question is very general, but could it be studied in relation to the development of Haaga?

The population projections that I found specifically for Haaga (Figure 1), were made only until the year 2030 (City of Helsinki 2018). They were also contradictory to the general big picture of people getting older in Finland. The result was that the share of elderly people in Haaga is to decrease by the year 2030. It is naturally impossible to say anything certain about the number of elderly people in Haaga in the future, but as mentioned in the midterm instructions, the focus of this exercise should not be too much on these speculations, but to go beyond them. After all, 10 years in urban planning sounds quite shortsighted timespan. In this case the greater picture, forecasts all the way to the year 2060 should be taken as the reference point, and it can be argued that the development of Haaga will not stay unaffected by this ageing trend neither.

Figure 1. Haaga population projection

The idea of studying ageing in planning has been considered in the previous blogposts of other students as well. In her blog post “Social Integration Spaces” Yana discussed the diverse needs and requirements that different age groups have for their environment. An important aspect that was raised was the communal side of people’s everyday life. Especially the case of elderly retired people and their need for social interaction popped up in the blog. Sounds like an important perspective for planning.

Lauri discusses also the changing demographics in his blogpost “Customer density: Understanding where the users are”.  Instead of elderly people, the focus of the post was on the growing proportion of children in the area, and how the school network must be planned to meet the number of children. Even though different topic, the expected demographic changes in the future are the key for indicating planning questions for the future.

Another issue (and somewhat related to the ageing population) can be how the modern Finnish way of considering nuclear family as the definitive social unit, may be questioned in the future. The expected growth of immigration, multiculturalism and new kinds of ideas about the concept of “family”, will probably challenge this way of thinking. At the same time urban planning should also take these trends into consideration.

When thinking about planning questions in general, the changing age structures of the residents seems to be theme that can encompass the entire concept of planning. Personally, I see that ageing is an inescapable theme for the future, and it deals with all the aspects of planning. On a very general level my research question would be; How to take the ageing population into consideration in urban planning? The question can be approached from numerous ways; for instance, how should the physical environment and transportation be planned for old people and their needs? What about the services? How to achieve social cohesion, both in contemporary world and in the future?

When talking about elderly people, it is important to keep in mind that we are not talking about a homogenous group, but a diverse set of people with different backgrounds, qualities and capabilities. As the number of elderly people is expected to increase, so will increase the variety within the group. For instance, lately retired active (and even wealthy) people in their 70s, are different from even older people with needs for eldercar. Anyways, it can be expected that needs for both groups differ from the needs of the younger generations. The question is how to tackle the issue in urban planning.

These framework questions of ageing can also be attached to the current plans for Haaga. For instance, the possibility for city boulevards is an ongoing question, and infill development seems to be a grand agenda for the entire city of Helsinki. Densifying the areas around good transportation connections, like Jokeri-tram for instance, give good platform to consider the planning from the perspective of elderly people as well.

This blogpost has played with the idea of planning in relation to ageing population of the future Haaga. To make the plan or research question more precise, a more thorough research about the topic is required.

 

Sources:

City of Helsinki. (2018). Väestöennuste 2019-2030. www.aluesarjat.fi

Statistic Finland.(2015). Share of young people in the population is in danger of diminishing further.  https://www.stat.fi/til/vaenn/2015/vaenn_2015_2015-10-30_tie_001_en.html

Task 3 – Density, Good/Bad Urban Environment and Geography?

When thinking about density, and how to relate it to the quality of the urban environment in terms of geography, one faces a complex picture. Geography studies the world and its phenomena in terms of spatiality. In practice this means that the object of the study can be almost anything, as long it can be perceived in some spatial context. It is also important to understand that geography and spatial thinking, just like density, alone appear to be a minor subject. To make the spatial studies meaningful, one must observe the qualities and relations of the studied objects within that space. Here the usage of other fields of science outside geography is inevitable.

Regarding the given task (density in relation to the qualities of urban environment and how to measure it), two main difficulties seem to rise:

– How to measure density and how to measure the quality of environment (good/bad urbanity)?

– How to interpret the results and measurements (the importance of context)?

These questions are now approached with two examples.

 

In geography density can be measured in multiple ways, and the used method is always dependent on the context of the observed phenomena. The classic and conventional ways of measuring density in urban geography are population density (population/total area), classic efficiency ratios (floor area/total area) and more focused density figures (housing units/total area, actual living space/person etc.). While doing this one must consider the different qualities of the observed phenomenon, and the scale of the studied density. The classic idea is to change the used scale to get a more detailed picture of the phenomenon. A very simple example of this is shown in figure 1.

Figure 1. Building efficiency ratio in Helsinki Metropolitan Area. Calculated for 250m and 500m grids.

Figure 1 reveals the idea of how efficiency is distributed within the area, but the level of presentation is much coarser on the 500 m grid than on the 250 m grid. Even though the difference is not overwhelming, the 250 m grid reveals the small details that larger grid hides. Classification in this case is kept the same in both maps to make the comparison more valid. In other words, scale affects greatly the perceived study object.

If physical and numeric density can easily be measured in various ways and scales, to measure the goodness/badness of the urban environment is a much trickier question and can be approached from even more directions. After all, quality of any urban environment is always a relative and subjective question. If the aim is to measure some kind of “general quality” of the area, without choosing any more precise topic (accessibility, safety, services etc.), a good option would be just to ask for people’s views about it.

An example of this kind of ”study about quality”, and doing that in comparison with density, has been conducted by Marketta Kyttä and her colleagues in 2013 (Kyttä et al. 2016). The study, Urban happiness: context-sensitive study of the social sustainability of urban settings, utilizes soft-GIS methods with public participatory questionnaires. In the study people were able reveal their own locations and perceptions of environmental quality, places of happiness, accessibility of local services and personally meaningful places, perceived well-being of residents, and suggestions for environmental improvements. This qualitative soft-GIS-data was then analyzed in comparison with “hard-GIS” data about the physical density of the recipients’ home neighborhoods. Put very simply, the idea of the study was to find out how physical density might correlate with peoples’ experiences about qualities of the environment, and how this might be seen in their well-being for instance. An interesting and creative approach for a spatial study.

As was expected, the outcome of the study was not straightforward. Because we are talking about quite complex and subjective issues, interpretation of the results must be done carefully. The study revealed that the context of the perceptions affected strongly on how the density was felt among the participants. Put short, density as figure alone does not reveal enough about the studied phenomenon.

 

References:

HSY. (2013). SeutuCD building registry data 2013.

Kyttä, M., Broberg, A., Haybatollahi, M., & Schmidt-Thome, K. (2016). Urban happiness: Context-sensitive study of the social sustainability of urban settings. Environment and Planning B-Planning & Design, 43(1), 34-57. doi:10.1177/0265813515600121

Task 2 – The Great Transition of Haaga

This week’s task was to go beyond Wikipedia by researching the transitions and growth that have occurred in the settlements of Haaga during the past centuries. The outcome of my light research is based on mainly two documents: an architectural inventory by the Helsinki City Museum, Helsingin rakennuskulttuuri-inventointi: 29. Haaga (1996) and a research report by the city planning department of Helsinki, Pohjois-Haagan rakennettu kulttuuriympäristö – arvot ja ominaispiirteet (2012). Also, historic aerial photographs were used to deepen the analysis.

When thinking of transitions in Haaga, one cannot skip the rapid and massive development that took place right after the Second World War. Before the year 1946 Haaga had existed as its own administrative entity. From the start of the 20th century the district started to develop into an idyllic “garden town of villas”. The railroad connection that arrived to Haaga in 1901 and made this kind settlement or agglomeration of villas quite tempting for the locals. An interesting notion is that at the start of the century, the development of the area was strongly and solely in the hands of private landholders, who established their own company (M.G. Stenius Oy) to steer the development into the wanted direction (Lindh 1996). By the year 1946 Haaga had purposefully developed into its own unique town of villas, with direct connection to the nature (Lind 1996).

The city of Helsinki had been planning the acquisition of Haaga during the first half of the century, but the war times made the execution of the plan impossible. After the war, demand for housing in the city was even greater and the acquisition of land became topical, and in the year 1946 Haaga and several other neighboring areas were merged to Helsinki. Planning principles of that era were strongly adapted from international examples. The early 20th century ideas of “satellite garden cities” from the UK, USA, Germany and other Nordic countries provided inspiration for the development (Karlson et al. 2012). One could say, that the 1940s’ and 1950s’ planning of Haaga, on some level, resembled the early 20th century original ideas of Haaga, as a separate villa or garden city.  However, the volumes and densities that the modern growing city required did not meet with the principles of the old villa Haaga. Therefore, the whole of Haaga was completely rebuilt and additional residential areas were built on the Northern side of the railroad. Basically, the old Haaga of villas was vanished from the map by the rebuilt and demolition processes. The new Haaga turned out as modern and green place, where instead of villas, people lived in block of flats.

 Haaga in the year 1943

Haaga in the year 1964

The physical transition that Haaga experienced was pervasive. The sources say that in the year 1922 there were 287 buildings in the area. One can guess that by the year 1946 this figure was somewhat larger. Today the figure is approximately 1000 buildings, and of those currently existing buildings only around 40 were built before the year 1946. The core of this transition happened very fast, which can be noticed when comparing the aerial photographs from the years 1943 and 1960. (It is necessary to mention the comparison with the figures is coarse, since the administrative borders and functions or dynamics of the vast area have changed, but it gives an idea of the direction and pace of the transition).

 

Sources:

Code for Europe -partner, The City of Helsinki, Helsinki region infoshare. Helsinki ilmakuvina 1932-2014. https://dev.hel.fi/ilmakuvat/#7/60.216/24.897

Karlsson, K. et al. (2012). Pohjois-Haagan rakennettu kulttuuriympäristö – arvot ja ominaispiirteet. Arkkitehtitoimisto Kristina Karlsson, Kati Salonen ja Mona Schalin Arkkitehdit Oy, Sito Oy. Helsingin kaupunkisuunnitteluvirasto 2012.

Lindh, T. (1996). Helsingin rakennuskulttuuri-inventointi: 29. Haaga. Helsinki: Helsingin kaupunginmuseo.

 

Task 1 – The District of Haaga Before the 17th Century

What was Haaga like before the year 1600, or how can we get an image of Haaga from that time? This is the question we need to answer. To make the time scope more reasonable, let’s focus on the era when human settlement has been assumed to already exist in the coastal areas of Finland, starting from the late Middle Ages. This blog post attempts to elaborate the methods that can be used for the task. The task is challenging, since we are talking about a time period way before photographs or any other form of the data that contemporary world keeps producing with an accelerating pace. Also, it is good to keep in mind that Haaga has not had the same historical importance that more central places have had. Therefore, one can assume that not much has been left to remember from Haaga before the year 1600.

To create a holistic image of the area, one must apply a multidisciplinary approach. A useful way to do it is to create a crude and classic distinction between the natural and cultural fields of studies. Both approaches are needed when creating the idea or image of what the physical reality in Haaga has been before the 17th century.

From the natural perspective of the physical environment, relevant fields of science would include many subjects with the prefix paleo attached to them (for instance ecology and climatology). With expertise in these subjects one can create models of the flora and fauna that has existed in the area a few centuries ago. This information reveals what kind of human activities have been possible in the area in terms of agriculture for instance. All the open GIS-databases of the area are also related to this approach, such as Paikkatietoikkuna or Maankamara, and they can be used to analyze the physical environment Haaga. For instance, according to Paikkatietoikkuna, a great part of the soil in the contemporary Haaga is so called anthrosol. Anthrosol indicates that human settlement and agriculture have existed in the area for a significant period. Small pieces of information like this add to the total picture.

The cultural side of research that can be applied for the task includes history and archeology, or any other subject relevant and related to these two. It seems that Haaga alone does not have very long written history for the time scope of this task. A lot of the historic research is based on administrative documents and the first maps from the area. Naturally these documents do not include any too detailed information. An example of relevant data for the task would be an inventory of the medieval villages and settlements in contemporary Helsinki made by the Finnish Heritage Agency (2011). The inventory revealed that several peasants have lived in the area at least from the early 15th century, since the first historic mentions of the area from that time, and in the year 1540 11 peasants (as the head of the house) have been living there. A proper historic research requires to go through all the available documents related to Haaga in that era.  When doing historic research for such a place, and imaging the environment, it seems reasonable to use generalization as a tool; Since it may turn out that we cannot find exact information about life in Haaga, it can be assumed that the possibly existed human settlements have been similar to those in the surrounding area, from which remains have been found and analyzed. Here generalization and comparison can be used to create the image.

As a conclusion, only combination of these two approaches of natural and cultural approaches, with a piece of realistic imagination, may provide one with the tools to reconstruct a holistic image of Haaga before the year 1600.

 

Sources:

The Finnish Heritage Agency (2011). V.-P. Suhonen & Janne Heinonen. Helsingin keskiaikaiset ja uuden ajan alun kylänpaikat. Inventointiraportti. https://www.hel.fi/hel2/kaumuseo/rakennusinventoinnit/raportit/kyl_paikkainventointi.pdf

Geological Survey of Finland. Maankamara, open GIS-service. http://gtkdata.gtk.fi/maankamara/

National Land Survey of Finland. Geodata portal Paikkatietoikkuna. www.paikkatietoikkuna.fi