Aalto Living+ Platform

Highlights from the autumn 2020: Living+ Platform on Nordic CityMaking Week

The new urban development festival Nordic CityMaking Week by Urban Practice was launched in September (2020) to promote collaboration especially between urban experts in the Nordic and Northern European countries, to find new ways to make our cities more livable together with all stakeholders, and to get a better understanding what constitutes as Nordic urbanism. Living+ Platform took part in the festival as one of the content partners – and by participating in the program.

Recordings of many of the talks – including one by Living+ Platform Manager Aija Staffans – are now available online: youtube.com/channel/UC5lvF8zosj90sNM9yYKA3kQ
People listening to a remote talk by Jenny Osuldsen (from Norway) streamed at KYMP House as part of the Nordic CityMaking Week.
A remote talk by Jenny Osuldsen (NO) streamed at KYMP House on Nordic CityMaking Week. Photo: Nordic CityMaking.

In September (15th-19th), the first edition of Nordic CityMaking Week, a festival focused on urban development, took place in Helsinki and Vantaa and online. The event gathered people from both Finland and abroad to discuss placemaking, Nordic aspects to livable, sustainable and democratic cities, and to define what exactly makes a city Nordic.

The event consisted of both on-site and online program including seminars, site-visits and workshops, among other things. Due to the exceptional circumstances, all festival program was free, supporting the ideal of inclusive citymaking, according to which also the grassroots actors and citizens should be able to participate and engage in developing their cities. One of the main goals of Nordic CityMaking movement is to “build connections between different stakeholders, cities and countries”, and this was definitely visible in the festival program with more than 40 guest speakers from 20 different countries and more than 20 organizations in various sectors of the society.

Screenshot of Aija Staffans' presentation on trends in Nordic urban planning, at Nordic CityMaking Week.
Aija Staffans' presentation on Nordic CityMaking Week.

One current topic of the week was discussing how we can create sustainable, resilient cities during times of unexpected changes. This was reflected by looking at two different neighbourhoods in Vantaa - a brand new area (Aviapolis) and an older one (Myyrmäki), and via concepts such as place-led development, local narratives and a bottom-up approach. Among the speakers were experts from STIPO (NL), NCC and City of Vantaa, as well as Martin Arfalk from a design studio Mandaworks (SWE) invited by Living+ Platform. He shared inspiration on how to approach design and urban planning by utilizing narratives and being mindful of the local context, and also Mandawork’s ideas behind their creative winning proposal for developing the Aviapolis area surrounding the airport.

Regarding the other hosting city, Helsinki, topics of discussion concerned revitalization of the downtown area as well as the future of urban nightlife. Contributing to the lively discussion on how to maintain a vibrant city center were people from a diverse set of fields ranging from politics and real estate development to commerce and culture, including the Deputy Mayor of Helsinki, Anni Sinnemäki. The discussion on nightlife was led by a night liaison Salla Vallius, the first person ever to have been appointed that title in Helsinki.

The festival ended with a summary of week’s learnings and several interesting speakers, including keynotes Jeff Risom from Gehl Architects (US/DK) and Jenny Osuldsen from Snøhetta (NO). Also Living+ Platform had the honor to participate with the Platform Manager Aija Staffans giving a presentation on the common trends particularly in recent Nordic city planning, and including examples on creating attractive, human-friendly urban spaces - watch the talk here (in Finnish).

The final day closed with a future “manifesto” for the Nordic CityMaking movement and Nordic Cities, which had been outlined based on participants’ feedback. This included, among other things, curiosity, collaboration and willingness to share solutions with others. Please check out the full manifesto on NCM website: nordiccitymaking.fi/ 

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