In Helsinki, you learn to share

Pensioners sit with lapdogs in the Market Square café. Cruise passengers who have celebrated a little too enthusiastically disembark. Fishmongers present their catch of pike. Friends ready for a picnic crowd onto the Suomenlinna ferry. With its seafood aromas, seagulls on the lookout to steal meat pasties and crowds of tourists, the Helsinki Market Square is the favourite place of industrial designer Laura Koskinen.

“When watching people there, you get the feeling that Helsinki really is a relaxed and diverse city,” she comments.

Koskinen says that she enjoys relaxing on free days by watching people at the market, but has recently become interested in the locals as part of her studies at Aalto University. Koskinen is on the International Design Business Management Masters programme, which brings together design, business and technology professionals.

Her studies include subjects such as user-oriented urban planning; as part of her course, Koskinen has had the chance to ask Helsinki residents for suggestions on how to make the Helsinki Design District, a cluster of art galleries, fashion and design shops in Punavuori, more appealing.

“I was positively surprised by the enthusiasm with which townspeople made proposals for the development of the area and the importance of the perspectives they contributed,” says Koskinen.

She believes that locals should be more involved in the development of Helsinki. “This would make everyday life smoother and the city more attractive, while creating a sense of community,” she says.


Kindergartens and homes for the elderly link up

Koskinen believes that urban design should pay particular attention to the different needs of different generations. At best, the generation gap could be filled to the benefit of all.

She points out that this has happened in the Rudolf service home in Laajasalo, into which three young people urgently in need of housing moved in January. They became tenants of 23 sqm studio flats for EUR 250 per month in the service home, where they spend 3-5 hours per week with elderly residents. This arrangement provides company for elderly people suffering from loneliness, while young people at risk of becoming homeless are housed.

In addition, Koskinen believes that kindergartens and homes for the elderly could be located in the same buildings – examples of this can already be found in the world.

“Enabling people to share and do things together is a major trend in the urban planning of the future. In particular, shared housing and communes will become more common,” Koskinen predicts.


Is sharing and collaboration bleak?

Koskinen is involved in projects involving future forms of housing and lifestyles, in which foresight-based research and planning are used as a tool.

After studying a variety of trends and megatrends, she is convinced that climate change will strongly influence the future of Helsinki residents. To help limit global warming to two degrees Celsius, Finland would have to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Among other things, the transition to a low carbon society will require a more densely built urban structure, and energy-efficient buildings and city blocks.

A new type of low-carbon urban housing has already been built in Helsinki districts such as Jätkäsaari, but Koskinen points out that the fight against climate change will also require a major change in lifestyles.

We need to move from an individualistic, disposable culture to a sharing economy, but this would not necessarily be uncomfortable and dreary.

“Restaurant Day is a good example of a new kind of sharing and caring-culture,” says Koskinen.


Text and picture: Venla Pystynen


Pouyan Mohseninia chose Laura Koskinen as a maker of the Helsinki of the future.