A group of activist urban planners, collectively: Urban Helsinki, has come together to develop their own plans for the future urban form of Helsinki, as an alternative to the official city developers plans.
Urban Helsinki’s plan involves compact inner city development, built with the urbanite in mind. It maintains green spaces and incentivises increased usage of public transport and encourages pedestrianisaton.
The government’s draft city plan sets out 250,000 new residential homes with a loss of 300 hectares of green forest area. Urban Helsinki’s plan, Helsinki 2.0, compares favourably, as it doubles the number of potential residential homes and cuts the loss of green space to zero through the regeneration of derelict brownfield sites.
As the project instigator Timo Hämäläinen notes, “Cities and public space belong to all of us and everyone has the right and responsibility to help shape them to be the best they can be."
Good urban planning is key to sustainability as the global trend for urbanisation continues. Environmental impacts are often ‘designed in’ by choices that planners make about housing density and transport modes, and public green spaces for recreation are essential to the well-being of urban-dwellers. Urban Helsinki’s alternative city plan is a strong challenge to the authorities to do better, and gives residents an opportunity to give detailed, meaningful feedback.
It represents another way to influence vital planning processes besides the traditional routes available to citizens, and it will be interesting to see what effect it has on the final official plan. Similar urban activist activity has occured in Stockholm and Hong Kong to much success. It is exciting to think how these new models of citizen-led urban planning and decision making can be scaled up, and potentially become a unique selling point of any particular city.
Future Cape Town (2015, March, 23) Why young urbanists made their own city plan for Helsinki