Closing the zip: TULLI, TAMPERE, FINLAND by Fred London & Charles Campion

By 11/05/2021 No Comments

Written by: for 20/20 Visions

“The Charrette covered a huge amount of ground in a condensed time frame and created consensus from the wide range of stakeholders involved in a way that no other process could have achieved.”

Charrette participant

A magnificent river, known as ‘The Rapids’, flows with gentle but awesome power through the heart of Tampere, Finland’s second city.  A twenty metre drop over one kilometre between a lake to the north of the city and another to the south, gives the river force enough to run two hydro-electric generators.  A park runs along the river’s eastern bank, a popular and beautiful green space, and Keskustori, the city’s main urban square, lies on the western side. The river is a constant presence for citizens and visitors as they enjoy the many attractions of the city centre.

By contrast, the Tulli quarter, separated from the city centre by the broad swathe of Tampere’s railway tracks, was isolated and suffered from a lack of vitality.  This had a negative impact on two of the city’s most important institutions located in the quarter; Tampere Talo, the iconic concert and conference hall, and Tampere University.

The railway corridor consists of 8 railway lines that create a break in the urban fabric – the open zip.  This is exacerbated by a sharp level change of around six metres from the generally flat city centre up to Tulli and its environs. Locals refer revealingly to the area to the east of the railway line as “Russia”!

The main entrance to the station is from the town centre and a series of routes continue at the same level, beneath the tracks, to reach the stairs and escalators that lead up to the platforms.  The upper level, where people get on and off the trains, is at the same level as that of the Tulli quarter.  The tracks are a barrier for anyone wanting to go directly from Tulli to the city centre. A further consideration was a new landmark development by Daniel Libeskind to be built on a deck over the railway lines with jagged office towers and a new Ice Hockey stadium for Tampere’s premier team.

By 2011 there had been significant investment in building projects in this part of the city but no one had yet fully contemplated the spaces and connections between them. Then Kari Kankaala, Tampere’s chief planner, saw a presentation on “Collaborative Placemaking” which got him thinking about how a Charrette process could help address Tulli’s challenges.  Mr Kankaala successfully encouraged some key local stakeholders including Finnpark, Tampere Talo, Tampere University, Technopolis and Tulli Business Park, to join the City Council and contribute towards the cost of a Charrette process.

JTP was appointed to lead a multi-disciplinary team to facilitate the 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.

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

After some deep thinking about the process, it was agreed that rather than holding a single Charrette, a two stage Charrette process would be appropriate.  The first stage was the ‘thinking’ workshop to be followed two months later by the second stage, the ‘creating’ workshop.  The make up of the JTP team were adjusted between the first and second workshop to reflect the changing focus, from formulating a strategy to producing the Vision.

The main design challenges for the Charrette were how to:

Tulli: Enliven the quarter to serve as a vibrant connection from the station to the eastern part of the city.
Tampere Talo: Improve connections between the biggest combined concert hall and conference centre in Scandinavia and the city centre and railway station.
Tampere University: Enable a listed building of elegant design to open up and venture out of its campus to engage more with the rest of the city and welcome in the outside world.
Finnpark: Plan for the removal and replacement of the multi-storey car park monopolising the heart of Tulli as a consequence of the new one kilometre underground linear car park blasted into the city’s bedrock by Finnpark.

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 all working together.”

Kari Kankaala, Tampere’s Chief Planner

The Charrettes were invitation-only stakeholder events. 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 of their neighbours’ plans for the future.  Participants responded readily to the opportunity to share knowledge and ideas in the creative atmosphere of the carefully structured workshop processes, including hands-on co-design tables. There was a lively buzz in the room at both Charrettes and participants enjoyed the process!

The Charrettes gave all the stakeholders an unprecedented opportunity to learn about one another’s aspirations and thereby develop integrated ideas and strategies for the regeneration of Tulli and the adjacent station area. The Vision was presented on the final day of the second Charrette after which Kari Kankaala declared, “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 all working together.”

The Vision created through the process included:

  • The workshop outcome to form part of the brief for the City of Tampere’s 2014 international design competition for the station area
  • The extension of city centre’s car-free, slow movement system to include Tulli and the establishment of the Eastern Station Gateway concept
  • Relocating the planned long-distance bus terminus to the eastern side of the railway tracks
  • Development of integrated multi-modal movement concept including additional pedestrian and cycle connections to overcome barrier of railway tracks
  • Moving Tampere Talo “closer” to the station by creating a themed route acting as a covered outdoor foyer
  • Vibrant new public spaces in Tulli quarter – hard and soft landscaped
  • Introduction of ‘Box-park’ concept to overcome Tulli’s lack of active frontages and kick-start the process of bringing the area back to life
  • 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’
  • Integrated catalogue of projects and phased programme for developments and short, medium and long term design competitions
  • Drawing up of ‘Tulli Charter’ and establishment of ‘Tulli Team’ for collaborative decision-making on the Vision for Tulli

The Charrette covered a huge amount of ground in a condensed time frame and created consensus from the wide range of stakeholders involved in a way that no other process could have achieved.  A key success factor was having top representatives of all the organisations devoting their time to benefit the overall process.

To this day the Tulli Team is still active, guided by the Tulli Charter and the catalogue of projects from the Vision for Tulli and several of the Vision projects are underway.

An international competition was held for the station area, with the Charrette report included as part of the competition brief.  City representatives and winning team COBE, from Denmark, made a trip to visit projects in and around London, including Kings Cross redevelopment and Camden Market, which had been presented by the JTP teams during the Tampere workshops. 

The station design work is now underway and incorporates many concepts that emerged during the Tulli Charrette. Renewal of the existing station, now called the Travel Centre, is undergoing the ‘zoning-phase’ process, and will consist of a 200,000 m2 floor area accommodating residential accommodation for 6,000 people and business space for 4,000 employees.

Tulli’s planners are working through the local plan process, aiming to house 1,000 people in mixed-use buildings, to help accommodate the city’s growing population. On the main road in the eastern part of Tulli are proposals for existing 4-storey residential blocks to be extended up to a total of 10-12 storeys. Other existing low-rise buildings nearby are to be demolished and replaced by new-build apartments.

The ‘UniverCity’ concept for Tampere University is on hold, pending further decision-making, but a student accommodation company is converting existing offices in Tulli with ground floor mixed uses and student rooms above.

The Long-Distance Bus Terminal may still be implemented but is now in the hands of the government, not the city.  Improvements are being introduced for cycle routes through the Tulli area as part of the city’s sustainability strategy. The the first phase of the underground car park is now complete and the demolition of the multi-story car park in the heart of Tulli, whilst currently on hold, may still be implemented.

Tampere West+ Vision 2020
The years of investment focussed on Tulli, the Travel Centre and the city wide Tramway projects generated a feeling that Tampere’s historic city centre to the west of the rapids was being neglected. To redress the balance, and reflecting the success of the Tulli charrette process, the city again commissioned JTP and Von Zadow International to lead a multi-disciplinary team to carry out another local business funded Charrette process to co-create a Vision for the revitalisation of the mixed-use area known as WEST+.

The West+ Charrette programme, run from February to October 2020, had to be modified to be facilitated both face to face and virtually due to the social distancing and travel restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, but it was completed successfully and the outcomes are set out in the report published in English here and Finnish here. To see the detailed Report Back presentation pdf click here for part 1 and part 2, and the summary broadsheet here.

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