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Competition: Helsinki East Urban Centre

The City of Helsinki has launched an international ideas contest to remasterplan the suburban Itäkeskus and Puotila districts (Deadline: 25 October)

The two-stage competition, organised by the Finnish Association of Architects, seeks ‘innovative, inspiring and sustainable’ proposals to regenerate the transport interchange on Helsinki’s eastern fringe which hosts two motorways and several large shopping centres and supermarkets.

The call for concepts aims to generate new ideas to transform the area into a new integrated ‘Helsinki East Urban Centre’ which supports the city’s ambitious target to become carbon neutral by 2035.

Itäkeskus and Puotila, Helsinki

Itäkeskus and Puotila, Helsinki

Itäkeskus and Puotila, Helsinki

According to the brief: ‘Itäkeskus is the most important subcentre of eastern Helsinki. The area is a major commercial centre even within the whole metropolitan area of Helsinki and a busy transportation hub for tens of thousands of daily commuters and customers.

‘Yet something essential is missing outside the walls of the shopping enclaves and the passing trains and vehicles: urbanity and people. The aim of the competition is to provide new functions to the proximity of the public transportation hub and commercial services and turn the area from the present-day transit centre into a vibrant urban area – Helsinki East Urban Centre.’

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 consumer electronics giant Nokia.

Last year the city council held a design contest for a series of ‘stylish and sympathetic’ 5G base stations across the Finnish capital, which was won by a local team known as Stadika.

In 2016, the city ditched competition-winning plans by Paris-based Moreau Kusunoki Architects for a £110 million Guggenheim Museum in the nearby South Harbour.

Anttinen Oiva Arkkitehdit won a contest in 2017 for a mixed-use development around a new tram depot on Helsinki’s eastern fringe. Last month, the city opened an international competition to remasterplan the central market square in Töölöntori.

The latest contest focuses on the centre of the suburban Itäkeskus and Puotila districts, which features one of the largest shopping centres in Scandinavia along with a major transport interchange.

Submissions may be in English or Finnish. Shortlisted teams will be announced in January 2020 and will have until the summer to draw up conceptual plans.

The overall winner – to be announced at the end of 2020 – will receive an €80,000 top prize while a second prize of €60,000 and third prize of €50,000 will also be awarded, along with up to two €30,000 runners-up prizes.

How to apply


The deadline for applications is 4pm local time, 25 October

Contact details

City of Helsinki, Urban Environment
Sörnäistenkatu Street 1


View the contract notice and visit the competition website for more information

Q&A with Mikko Näveri

The architect at the City of Helsinki discusses his ambitions for the competition

Mikko Näveri

Mikko Näveri

Mikko Näveri

Why are your holding an international ideas contest to re-masterplan the centres of Itäkeskus and Puotila?

Itäkeskus is the most important subcentre of eastern Helsinki. The area is a major commercial centre and a busy transportation hub for tens of thousands of daily commuters and customers. Yet something essential is missing in the area: urbanity and people. We are organising the contest in order to find innovative and inspiring suggestions for how to transform the area into a vibrant city centre with an urban look and functions. We believe that an ideas competition that is open for experienced professionals as well as younger talents is a good way to approach such a wide and varied challenge.

What is your vision for the new Helsinki East Urban Centre?

The competition seeks a new image and physical look for the Helsinki East Urban Centre. The area will be transformed to an urban centre that is bustling with life from morning until late at night. The starting point for the development will be the characteristic edge and multicultural identity of the area. In addition to making the urban structure denser and its functions more mixed, quality of public urban spaces is to be improved significantly.

A core challenge of the competition is also the improvement of pedestrian and bicycle connections and the reduction of the barrier effect of the traffic routes crossing the competition area. The competition area is quite large and the current conditions inside the area are diverse, which certainly will make the competition task challenging.

Sustainability is an important part of the brief. The planning solutions of the entries must further the goal of the Carbon-neutral Helsinki Action Plan. Helsinki has committed to very ambitious climate emissions reduction objectives in its City Strategy. Helsinki’s goal is to become carbon neutral by 2035.

Itäkeskus shoppping centre, Helsinki

Itäkeskus shoppping centre, Helsinki

Source: Image by Timo Newton-Syms

Itäkeskus shoppping centre, Helsinki

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

The competition is a public architecture competition open to everyone. The competitors are encouraged to form multidisciplinary teams. Solving the challenging and diverse competition task requires expertise in architecture, landscaping and traffic planning, and above all ability create fresh and inspiring yet feasible solutions.

The competition is held in two phases. The first part of competition focuses on overall solutions and ideas. Three to five teams will be selected tor the second phase of the competition. In the second phase the plans presented are to be significantly more detailed, and the teams must have appointed an architect, a landscape architect and a traffic planning specialist, each with an academic degree. International teams are not required to collaborate with local firms.

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

The objective of the competition organiser is that the winner of the competition continues developing the winning entry into a reference plan for the detailed plan under the guidance of the City of Helsinki. In the further commissions, the ordering parties may also be private landowners in the area.

Are there any other recent suburban town centre masterplan projects you have been impressed by?

Remodelling the area of Thomas B Thriges Street in Odense is a recent, inspiring reference project of urban transformation. The location in Odense is not suburban, but otherwise there are certain similarities with the competition site of the Helsinki East Urban Centre, for example the car dominated starting point for the development. The overall plan drawn up by Entasis is an inspirational study of density and urbanity with a human scale architecture and urban structure. The project is currently under construction.

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