Main Street Project – Part of Designs for a Cooler Planet 2021

We want to correct the legacy of modernist traffic planning in a city environment, where there are no streets – just roads. A car-oriented traffic milieu can become a lively street and a site of community and various user groups. In the spirit of circular economy, we hack the habitat.
Title image
Meng Xu (2020)
Areal image - Tamara Fajer's work
Plan by Tamara Fajer (2020)


When a road becomes a street, the cars may be still there, but pedestrians have priority in the development. Adjascent, underused ground floor spaces get new users and life. The street becomes a platform for presentlyu underprivileged users.


A street can be a street as a platform for human services and experiences. This project shows the benefits of cross-disciplinary collaboration, combining the ability of service design to outline user-based environments (by Royal College of Art, London) with the architectural design of neglected urban spaces (by Aalto University School of Art, Design and Architecture). We communicated, shared ideas and co-create solutions with locals to utilise development opportunities and solve problems. Based on extensive user interaction, we have planned new services related to wellbeing, partnering and public events. 
The project aims to be implemented with Aalto University Campus and Real Estate in 2024-25, but also acts as a model and catalyst for scalable realisations elsewhere. 

Supporting resource efficiency, the project rediscovers neglected urban areas with the help of adaptive regeneration and reuse. The main target groups in the conceptual development have been urban citizens, city developers, designers and planners.

•    Generic principles for the regeneration of optimised and human-based living areas 
•    The improvement of wasteful utilisation rates of facilities 

In the creative case study, an user- and service-oriented design method has been developed and implemented in order to activate the spaces in Aalto University’s campus along Otakaari road between Metro Block and A Grid startup centre. 

Main Street Logo
Main Street project logo

Project team

Aalto’s master-level architecture course (degree programme of Architecture with Urban Studies and Planning) and Service Design Programme from Royal College of Art, London. 

Project lead 
•    Antti Ahlava, professor, Department of Architecture, Aalto University
•    Nicolás Rebolledo, lecturer, Master’s Programme of Service Design, RCA, UK

Project group
•    RCA: John Makepeace (service design)
•    Aalto: Karoliina Hartiala (architecture), Jaana Tarma (service design)
•    Invited visitors: Teemu Nojonen & Jarmo Suominen

Partners and commitments
•    Alvar Aalto Foundation 
•    Afry Ltd
•    Xigrid Ltd

•    Aalto: Meng Xu, Yanxia Qiu, Tamara Fajer, Kerttu Kaisanlahti, Maija Pakarinen, Karoliina Mäenpää, Milla Norman, Jingyi Mao, Anna Li, Shenyu Sun
•    RCA: Valeska Noemi Mangel, Kristof van der Fluit & Benedetta Locatelli, Valeska Noemi Mangel, Giulio Ferrato, Yi-Tzu Chang, Kenjiro Taniguchi, Isabelle Horlings, Xinyue Ruan, Nick Talbot, Saitej Pisupati, Sara Monacchi, Yaxin Zheng, Hongyu Wang

    Plan by Meng Xu (2020)

    Contact info 

    Professor Antti Ahlava ([email protected], 050 324 1179)

    Use diagram (Maija Pakarinen & Meng Xu)

    Circular Economy in the Built Environment​

    The built infrastructure is responsible for 40% of global CO2 emissions and energy consumption – we need to use it wisely. 

    Impact: ​

    User- and service-oriented design method and results for the adaptive reuse of a city​

    What: ​

    A collaboration course with RCA's service designers (autumn 2020). RCA is in art and design in the world rankings no. 1.​

    The re-use of the facilities, the intensification of use and the development of outdoor spaces for pedestrian and cycling-oriented liveability in Otaniemi along Otakaari between A Grid and A Block. ​

    User-centric activities for the interiors using service design that can activate them around the clock and year.​

    Target group: urban citizens, city developers, designers and planners

    Shenyu Sun (2020)

    Resource wisdom​

    • Optimised and human-based development of both indoor and outdoor spaces through adaptive reuse.​

    • The improve of the wasteful utilization rates of facilities (usually around 30% on university campuses worldwide, 20-30% at Aalto before the pandemic) towards 100% utilisation and satisfaction rate.​

    • The project aims to be implemented with ACRE 2024-25, but acts as a model and catalyst for scalable realisations elsewhere. ​

    Project Lead

    • Published:
    • Updated: