Thursday, June 03, 2010

Building on the blue with a green profile

HELSINKI/DESIGNING THE FUTURE. Minimizing and improving efficiency in energy use is the latest trend in climate smart urban development.
Now Helsinki joins the race to be one of the world leaders in the field. Earlier this week, it was announced that the Kalasatama (Fiskehamnen in Swedish) waterfront development will be the testing ground for a large scale so called smart grid power network.
“We have the ambition to develop the new Kalasatama district into a global benchmark for smart cities and we look forward to implementing the best available technology together with our global partner”, says Seppo Ruohonen, CEO of Helsingin Energia, the public utility in the Finnish capital, in a statement as the news was announced.
Helsingin Energia will work in a joint development project with multinational power and automation technology giant ABB and the Nokia Siemens Networks to design and install a large-scale smart grid in the Kalasatama district (right, illustration copyright ALA Architects/City of Helsinki).
The project is part of a larger initiative to lift Helsinki’s environmental profile with focus on the sustainable and efficient distribution of power, according to a press release from ABB. The Swiss-Swedish company is involved in a similar project in the Stockholm Royal Seaport, an eco-profile development in the Swedish capital.
Kalasatama, “fishing harbour” in English, is one of several large ongoing or planned waterfront developments in Helsinki, where room for new residential districts have opened up since port facilities began moving to a location east of the city.
Eventually the district will have some 18,000 residents. Construction is expected to last well into the 2030’s. During the coming decades Helsinki will see major development projects on a scale few other cities in Europe can match. With a population near 600,000 (1.3 million in the metropolitan area), Helsinki expects to have built new homes for another 100,000 residents by 2040.
However, in the wake of the global economic crisis of the past two years, city authorities recently decided to temporarily put part of the development projects on hold. Investment plans will be re-evaluated and new decisions by City Hall are expected after the summer.
When things begin to move again, there will be several interesting projects to follow in Helsinki:
● Kalasatama, already mentioned above, will expand Helsinki’s city centre eastwards. A new metro station taken into use in 2007 will be the hub for the new district, where plans call for a diversity of housing types. New kinds of terrace buildings are planned to built where a power station stands today, representing a more daring architecture what has been the case so far in new Helsinki developments.
The waterfront of the district will be developed into new recreational areas.
● In the south western corner of central Helsinki, work is already under way to start construction in what used to be the Western Harbour. A district called Jätkäsaari (Busholmen in Swedish) will eventually provide homes for 16,000 residents and greatly expand the area of the city centre.
Jätkäsaari will be a continuation of the Ruoholahti (Gräsviken) district, developed in the 1990’s. With a canal running through it, this is a pleasant but un-spectacular district with excellent metro and tram connections with the rest of the city (above, left).
● Keski-Pasila (Central Pasila in english, Mellersta Böle in Swedish) is a planned as a new, or expanded, city centre three kilometers north of the present city centre. This is where Helsinki is making room for business expansion. A new high rise office complex is planned to be built on derelict railway yards and central Pasila will be developed as a new transportation hub.
● Two public transit projects will be of great importance to Helsinki in the future. The metro will be extended to the west, connecting Helsinki with neighbouring Espoo (Esbo), the capital’s most important suburb that has grown into the second largest municipality in Finland.
There are some delays in the project, and the new metro line is not expected to open for traffic until 2015.
At the same time a new Ring Rail Line is under construction. The line, expected to open for traffic in 2014, will provide important new commuter routes as well as rail connections to the Helsinki-Vantaa international airport.

This is the fourth and final article in a series of reports from Helsinki.

Copyright: Adactive Oy/City of Helsinki
The Kalasatama district will expand Helsinki's city centre eastwards.

A new metro line will connect Helsinki with neighbouring Espoo.

Copyright: Cino Zucchi Architetti/City of Helsinki
A new city centre for Helsinki; high rises in Central Pasila.