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Super Center or De-center

Guidelines for the future vision of H채meenlinna

Super Center or De-center

Guidelines for the future vision of Hämeenlinna August 13-21, 2014

URBEGO Group Beatriz Asensio Rubio Spanish architect, based in Luxembourg, works at Architects Paczowski et Fritsch.


For the 20th edition of the YTK/IFHP Urban Planning and Design Summer School the organizers wanted to bring back members of the alumni to take on a special task. In the spirit of the summer school, the work should be Simone Gobber done over a short period of time, in a Italian architect, based in London, city of which none of the team memindependent architectural designer bers would have any background and consultant. knowledge. The chosen city is Hämeenlinna in Ulrik Lassen southern Finland, right between HelDanish engineer, based in Copenhagen, sinki and Tampere. The team memworks with climate adaptation at the bers were given an open task of forconsultant Rambøll. mulating new scenarios of how the city center could evolve together with the rest of the city. Thank you: Tuomas Ilmavirta The team was selected among memPanu Lehtovuori bers of URBEGO, an international YTK/IFHP Summer School group of young professional urban Aalto University planners that, among other things, ofCity of Hämeenlinna fers consultancies to cities.

Hämeenlinna today The city of Hämeenlinna is situated in the southern part of Finland with almost 70000 people in the municipality and 50000 people in the city proper. The city is defining itself as the perfect town in between Helsinki and Tampere, both in distance (60 min. Helsinki, Tampere 45 min.), size, affordability and for its high quality of life. There is a natural separation between the city center defined by its grid system and the rest of the city. To all sides it is limited by nature or infrastructure borders. Two axis defined how the city developed. The north/south axis is the nature (i.e. lake, ridge and forest) and infrastructure (i.e. railway and motorway) which sets the city’s limits, and the east/ west axis around which Hämeenlinna has been built. The east/west axis can be followed all the way from the eastern suburbs, passing the station, the city center and the market square, across the motorway, to the western suburbs.

The focus of planning in Hämeenlinna is taking place around the city center – e.g. in the former industrial areas north and south of the station, the area around the swimming pool and the new shopping center and housing blocks build on top of the motorway. This leaves the city center encapsulated by a ring of new developments, but alone in terms of planning. A new shopping center has been built over the motorway, as a bold move to both create a connection between the inner and western city and to close the open wound that the motorway has given the city. The area is not opened yet, but it seems like it will not create the wanted connection but instead be another limiter of the city. Was this the opportunity for Hämeenlinna to have a new symbol for the city, that could have become a modern version of Venezia’s Rialto Bridge?

Scenario 1

Super Center

H채meenlinna as a Super Center is a city that reinvents itself as a modern mid-size city. The public spaces are redefined promoting mixed use, as well as introducing new functions.

For commuters going to and from the railway station everyday an upgraded system of bike lanes has been made, making it possible to reach the station in a more convenient way than today.

The existing pedestrian street is renovated, diversifying itself from the other big shopping centers around the city. It hosts small shops giving affor-dable space to local small companies, handicraft businesses and small retailers, becoming a showroom of the city for both locals and visitors.

Along the lake, the shore has been turned into a combination of parks, restaurants, bars, small marinas and swimming pools, which has become the place the recreational center for the whole city.

Scenario 2


Hämenlinna doesn’t need a city center any more. The malls around the town have removed the shops, the last public services are moving to the area next to the station, so let us make it a decenter. Hämeenlinna as a de-center, where the most redundant buildings in the city center have been removed, and instead townhouses are coming back to the city itself. The usage of the remaining concrete blocks have changed, so people are living there and taking advantage of their flat roofs, which can be used all year around as gardens and for overlooking the city.

The de-center has become one of the most popular areas of Hämeenlinna to live in. The area is known for it’s high quality of living. The central position makes it perfect for commuters, families and elderly to be. When you come to the de-center from the western part of the city, you are met by the Y-shape cross with some of the oldest buildings in town, that is now the symbol of the de-center.


High Street

The whole city needs a bold plan defining its new role. How can we give a new sense to the grid system?

The pedestrian street is dying, shops are closing and the mall is falling apart. How to make it attractive again?



The city is dreaming of covering the motorway. But how can we make sure this is an asset for the city?

The city wants to be the perfect commuter town. But what to do with the connection between the station and the city?

Y Gate


How can the entry points of the city contribute to change the overall image of a declining center?

The lake is one of the borders of the city center. How to change this border area into an inviting space for people?

Key Points of Intervention

Key points

Through interventions at places in Hämeenlinna that hold a significance in how the city is perceived by its inhabitants and visitors, we want to show how the scenarios could come to life. The chosen places represent the key points of how we have perceived the city, and therefore are the places that we want to transform into the front runners of the city’s future development.

Center Hämeenlinna needs a new, powerful idea to recover its identity, something that helps both its own inhabitants and also the visitors to understand the city: “What’s Hämeenlinna? How would you describe it?” The proposal to enhance its idiosyncrasy that comes from the pride of Hämeenlinna, the National Urban Park. Let’s bring together forest and city, let’s turn the city centre, into a park, into a forest.


Het Schieblock (Rotterdam, ZUS) Designed and managed by the Dutch design company ZUS, it is an interesting example of a temporary mixed reuse of an office building, hosting different companies and featuring a great urban garden on its roof.


Ssamzie Gil Mall (Seoul, KOR) Designed by Krotz Architecture in the center of Seoul, this mall is radically different than traditional malls: only affordable small shops for small local brands, an organic food court on the roof, and workshop spaces where to learn handicraft.

High Street Raatihuoneenkatu, the main pedestrian street in the city, far from being a pole of attraction, it has become a mixture of shops, restaurants and spaces without a special identity. In order to enhance the interest and development of this area, why not convert this street into a covered, liveable, easy-to-visit trade gallery, useful even in winter? Why don’t connect Raatihuoneenkatu with the new shopping mall, giving it a different twist?

Station As a gate for the city, the train station and its surroundings have to become a principal point, easy to recognize in the urban scene. The connection with the city should be improved, and the appearance of it redefined. How about transforming the existing access street with paintings, street art, and refurbishment? Let’s make the visitors to be keen on discover the city, and give the locals a pleasant welcome home!


City Painting (Tirana, AL) After the fall of the communist regime, the mayor Edi Rama found a way to transform Tirana in a quick and affordable way: colorful paint covered the grey concrete facades of the buildings, managing to rapidly change the image of the city.


Hessing Cockpit (Utrecht, NL) Designed by the dutch architect Kas Oosterhuis, the Hessing Cockpit is at the same time an acoustic barrier and a commercial showroom, and it became the iconic image of the city from the motorway.

Motorway The new shopping mall is situated on top highway between Helsinki and Tampere. This will be the first (and often only) image people will get of Hämeenlinna. Its advantageous position gives it the possibility to be not only an economical hub for the city, but also a powerful, significant and thrilling point. It’s a new bridge to the future bright development of Hämeenlinna!

Y Gate The existing connection between the centre and the western part of the city, gives H채meenlinna a kind of declining, unappealing feeling. Old buildings and unresolved connections are part of the problem, so refurbishment and new activities, as well as cycle and pedestrian paths will invite people to the center. A step into the past of the city, a step into its future!


Cheonggyecheon (Seoul, KOR) A massive renovation project for the city of Seoul: an entire motorway has been removed, revealing a river that had been covered in the past. It increased the liveability of the city and improved the traffic in the city center


Aalborg Havnefront (Aalborg, DK) As the industrial harbour is moving out, the former industrial areas in Aalborg, Denmark, has been turned into a recreational center containing parks, swimming facilities and cultural venues.

Water Despite the long connection and amazing environment existing between the urban layout and the lake Vanajavesi, the use of the common boundary can be improved. It could become a recreational center for the whole city, boosting water sports, lake-side restaurants and cultural activities. Why don’t we make Hämeenlina’s lake the most exciting one in “The land of the thousand lakes”?


Urban planning is an activity that requires a lot of time and a deep comprehension of what is going on in a city. When time is limited, what can be achieved are visions rather than telling what to do; suggest new points of view of how to look at the city, bringing ideas that wish to be “out of the box”. It is a very important moment for the development of Hämeenlinna: the municipality is working on a new general master plan, big areas will soon be transformed, the economical and social environment is changing. The intent of this work is to define some guidelines that should be considered in the future planning process:

- The size of any new intervention should be related to the real size of the town: big ideas don’t necessarily mean big construction.

- A city is not only a place for shopping, nor somewhere to sleep. Always consider all the different activities that take place in a city, promoting complexity of functions and a mixed use of spaces.

- When designing places, first think of people, then cars. A car-based urban sprawl is environmentally and economically not sustainable, better to think of an integrated system of different means of transport.

- Don’t be afraid to change: not always what has been done in the past is good also today. It is important for a young city to preserve memories of its history, but it’s always possible to question and eventually step back from decisions that have been taken when things were different than now.

- A special attention should be given to the architectural quality of the new interventions: they don’t only host functions, but they contribute in building the image of the city, and affects the quality of urban living.

- Last, but most important: the preservation and the promotion of the natural environment is the key asset for the quality of life in a city like Hämeenlinna, not only as a surrounding landscape, but as a strategic component of the city planning.


URBEGO was founded in 2012 by a group of members from IFHP. URBEGO, meaning city-metropolis in Esperanto, was established on the basis of a desire for a common platform for young planning professionals under the age of 35. The purpose of URBEGO is to create opportunities for discussion and research on urban issues, give young planners a voice in the planning debate and engage new generations as agents of change in the field of planning. An important goal is to provoke a reflection on the future role of planners in the changing global order and develop a common direction for the profession. URBEGO has evolved from an initiative bringing together artists, architects, designers, economists, sociologists and planners with a passion for cities, into an organization with a core team representing Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lebanon, Netherlands, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, the UK, and the US. Contact:

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