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Competition: Helsinki 5G base stations

The City of Helsinki has launched a contest to design a series of 5G base stations across the Finnish capital (Deadline: 18 November)

Backed by Nokia and Finnish mobile network Elisa, the competition seeks ‘stylish and sympathetic’ proposals for a new standard 5G radio receiver and transmitter, which could be rolled out in prominent locations throughout the city.

The project aims to identify an easily-scalable design solution for the fifth generation telecommunications system, which will deliver speeds of up to 20 gigabits per second. A €35,000 prize fund will be shared between the top three winners, whose designs will all be considered for further development.

Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

Source: Image by Sami C

Helsinki, Finland

According to the brief: ‘The objective of the 5G design contest is to design a standard model for the Helsinki 5G base stations and network environment. A base station refers to a single device and a network environment refers to the uniform system of base stations in a specific area.

‘A base station may consist of a protective casing only, which must be possible to integrate with the existing infrastructure as is (eg lighting columns, bus stops or walls of buildings) but the station may also consist of a protective casing with/on a pedestal. As a product, the base station is expected to be a refined design that smoothly fits in a variety of environments and takes into consideration the needs of usage and technology as well as the user experience.’

Helsinki is Finland’s most populous city with more than 640,000 residents. The city and surrounding region are a major tech hub featuring many globally leading businesses including the consumer electronics giant Nokia.

The latest project will identify a new standard design for a series of 5G base stations, which will be constructed across the city in time for the launching of the new high-speed network.

Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

Source: Image by marjattacajan

Helsinki, Finland

Digital submissions must be in English and include no more than seven A3-sized display boards featuring descriptions of the design, illustrations, cross-sections, and detail drawings.

Applications will be judged on their general functionality, level of innovation, and suitability to the Helsinki’s urban environment. The overall winner will receive €20,000. There will also be a second prize of  €10,000 and third prize of €5,000.

How to apply


The deadline for applications is 18 November

Contact details


Visit the competition website for more information

Q&A with Toivonen Kalle

The organizer discusses his ambitions for the competition

Toivonen Kalle

Toivonen Kalle

Toivonen Kalle

Why are your holding an annual international design contest for a new series of 5G base stations in Helsinki?

Helsinki aims to be the most functional city in the world and this functionality is built upon the basis of open and engaging culture. 5G development is currently at the stage where we are initiating open testing platforms in the city. At the same time we have realised that this technology will likely become a more visible part of our citizens’ lives and city environment. We think that this environment should surely be built together with all the actors in the city and this kind of contest offers such a great way to do that. Open collaboration is built deep in the Helsinki DNA and this is why we think it is important to open these kind of competitions to a range of solutions and designers.

What is your vision for the 5G base stations?

Unique and functional are the key words. 5G brings in new technology and new ways in which we not only see but experience our environment. With the low latency, high data transmission capacity, we’ll likely see services that we can’t yet imagine, so why not try to include this in the designs as well? Functionality can show itself in many forms and surely it’ll mean very different things in different city environments, so we ask that designers show us their interpretation of this vision. In the contest brief we have said that it might be a good idea to take a look at the Helsinki design manual and look over the elements of ‘Helsinki-look’, however we are not limiting the competition to these guidelines.

The contest area itself is not huge but offers a large variety of environments which mimic the very real challenge of fitting the base stations in very varying urban environments. We are also asking for designs of both a standalone model and a model that will be part of existing city infrastructure. I think this is actually the biggest constraint as it takes effort to understand that functionality can mean very different things in different urban environments. At the same time, however, this showcases the value of innovation. As it comes to sustainability we think it is an important part of the solution. We are looking for ecological solutions with sustainable lifecycles.

Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

Source: Image by Pöllö

Helsinki, Finland

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

The contest brief is quite complex and will set a challenging task for any competitor. This might by itself limit the number of entries, however, we do think that the challenge poses an excellent possibility to even those smaller practices and emerging talents. The end result will hopefully be scaled as the 5G networks develop and indeed this provides a great possibility for designers and architects to make a name for themselves. As said, it will be very likely that the base stations will be quite a visible part of the future urban environment. International teams are not mandated to collaborate with local firms, and we have provided photos of the contest area so that it lowers the barrier for international teams to join the contest.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

We have some competitions listed on the city website. You can see for instance that we  have a visualisation competition for city boulevards ongoing. The city does buy quite a lot of different planning services and we respect the rules of public procurements in these, however, we do have some framework agreements in place.

Are there any other recent communications base centre projects you have been impressed by?

We have benchmarked some projects, however, we are now looking for a specific design that fits Helsinki. 

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