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April 2018

Case Study from Finland

20/20 Visions: Collaborative Planning & Placemaking is due to release in mid-May 2018.  In researching for the book, the author, Charles Campion, wrote case studies on Charrette processes from around the world. Many were based on first-hand experience and always with input from the many actors who took part in these projects. Here is a case study chosen for this blog that was written with the help of Andreas Von Zadow, Von Zadow International and Fred London, Partner at JTP. In 2011 Andreas and Fred were part of the team leading this stakeholder Charrette in Tempere, Finland.

Closing the zip – connecting Tulli in Tempere

The isolated Tulli neighbourhood of Tampere, was suffering from lack of vitality, creating particular problems for two of the city’s most important institutions; Tampere Talo, the iconic concert and conference hall, and Tampere University.  A range of city stakeholders came together to create a Vision for how to overcome the problems.

A magnificent river, known as ‘The Rapids’, flows with gentle but awesome power through the heart of Tampere, Finland’s second city.  The twenty metre drop over one kilometre between a lake to the north of the city and another to the south, gives the river enough force to run two hydro-electric power stations.  The river is a constant presence for citizens and visitors as they pass through the city centre. However, one part of the city Tulli was isolated from river and the rest of the city centre by the railway line and main station.

By 2011 there had been significant investment in individual building projects in the city but no one had yet contemplated the connections between them. Then Kari Kankaala, Tampere’s chief planner, saw a presentation on Collaborative Placemaking by architect Fred London of JTP and it got him thinking how Tampere could address Tulli’s challenges.  He managed to encourage some of the key local stakeholders including Finnpark, Tampere Talo, Tampere University, Technopolis and Tulli Business Park, to contribute payments towards the cost of a Charrette process to cover the shortfall of the city’s funding limits.  Paulina Ahokas Managing Director of Tampere Talo explains, “We are next to the area and we see a need for redevelopment.  We wanted to see concrete actions and we wanted to make sure that the city were aware of the opportunities.”

JTP were appointed to lead a multi-disciplinary team to facilitate a Charrette focussing on Tulli’s connections and how to overcome the barrier effect of the railway. The resulting Vision was to inform a brief for an international competition for the area. Initially, it proved difficult to agree a strategy, but this was eventually overcome by agreeing a two stage process.  The first stage was a ‘thinking’ workshop to be followed two months later by the second stage, a ‘creating’ workshop.  The personnel of the JTP team were altered between the first to the second workshop to reflect the changing focus from strategy to Vision production.

Tampere station consists of a broad swathe of eight railway lines that creates a break in the urban structure – ‘the open zip’.  This is exacerbated by a sharp level change of around six metres from the generally flat city centre along the river up to Tulli the area to the east of the tracks.  The locals refer ironically to the area to the east of the railway line as, “Russia!” A further consideration was a major new landmark scheme by Daniel Libeskind to be built on a deck over the railway lines, which included jagged towers and a brand new Ice Hockey stadium for Tampere’s premier team.

Kari Kankaala, described the Charrette’s task as trying to find out how to “close the zip” and bring the two neighbourhoods either side of the railway tracks together.

The main design challenges for the Charrette were:

Tampere Talo: The biggest combined concert hall and conference centre in Scandinavia, able to attract top performers from all over the world, needed better connection to the city centre and railway station.

Tampere University: A listed building of elegant design but low density and lacking liveliness needed to open up and welcome in the outside world and also venture out of its campus to engage more with the rest of the city.

Finnpark: The multi-storey car park in Tulli that attracts traffic into the fine-grain area and monopolises a central part of the quarter, was to be demolished because a one kilometre tunnel with spaces for 972 cars had been blasted through the cities granite with lifts connecting directly up to the major stores above.

The Charrette was an invitation only stakeholder event.  The fact that the major organisations were funding the process led to strong engagement from representatives, many of whom knew each other but had never worked together and had no idea about their neighbours’ plans for the future.  Participants responded readily to the opportunity to share their thoughts in the collaborative atmosphere of the carefully structured workshop process, including collaborative hands-on design tables. There was a lively buzz in the room and it was clear that they were all enjoying themselves. Paula explains, “I liked the fact there were workshops and real site visits and the process ran over a whole weekend.”

The Vision created through the process included:

  • The extension of city centre’s car-free, slow movement system to include Tulli and the establishment of the Eastern Station Gateway concept.
  • Development of integrated multi-modal movement concept and a new pedestrian axes linking Tampere Talo and University to station, city centre and surrounding neighbourhoods.
  • Vibrant new public spaces in Tulli quarter – hard and soft landscaped.
  • Proposals for new commercial buildings over and alongside railway tracks and a design concept to create a fitting sense of arrival.
  • Ideas for intensification and diversification of the University campus with new buildings, spaces and connections to transform it into a ‘UniverCity’.
  • Drawing up of ‘Tulli Charter’ and establishment of ‘Tulli Team’ for collaborative decision-making on the Vision for Tulli.

The Vision was presented on the final day of the Charrette and Chief Planner Kari Kankaala reaction was, “What I saw today, in the final presentation, was more than I ever dared to expect! We’ve learnt such a lot from the Charrette process by working all together.”  Paulina from Talo also commented that a key benefit of the process were the “good looking materials to visualise our strategies – often there are reports with just words.”

The Charrette covered a huge amount of ground and created consensus from the wide range of stakeholders involved that no other process would have been able to achieve in such a condensed time frame.  A key success factor was having top representatives of all the organisations devoting their time to the benefit of the overall process. Paulina commented, “The partners from the area got to know all the different parties involved – you can’t redevelop an area just by one party taking decisions.” 

Following the Charrette an international competition was held. Whilst the Charrette report was included in the competition brief to illustrate possible ways to address level change issues JTP were not invited to sit on the competition jury.

After the winner of the competition had been announced, the city organised a follow-up public workshop in Tampere to encourage input from the local community. City representatives and winning team, led by COBE from Denmark, made a trip to visit projects in and around London which had been used as precedents during the Tampere workshops, including Kings Cross redevelopment and Camden Market.

At the time of writing the work has not yet begun on the major projects around and above the railway station.  Paulina explains, The Charrette Vision was very ambitious which is good – if you don’t aim high you won’t get very far. The challenge is there is currently no one really to keep the group going forward, I don’t think there is an active and passionate person to run the project. But if the Libeskind development happens it will bring forward the Tulli area – the place identity projects won’t cost much but it needs someone to organise them.”

It is anticipated that in due course the consensus built at the Charrette will be influential in connecting Tulli with Tampere’s western districts and give people to the east of the railway direct access to the heart of the city and the Rapids.