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.

Shaping successful places in diverse communities through collaborative planning and placemaking

Mit gemeinsamer Stadtplanung das Zusammenleben in Vielfalt gestalten

by Dr Ulrike Spohn


Politicians decide on a project. Experts design the proposals. A committee suggests modifications. Then a compromise is negotiated. Finally, the project is implemented – and then it turns out: the citizens wanted something completely different (and simpler) if only they’d been asked!

Architect Charles Campion knows well this problem in the design process. As an expert in participatory urban planning and placemaking, he helps people and local communities around the world to design the places that meet their actual needs and enhance the quality of life for all. I have met him to learn more about this practice of Collaborative Placemaking — and how it can help make co-existence in cultural diversity a positive thing.

Collaborative Placemaking brings people together

The mantra of Collaborative Placemaking is: “Cities and towns are not just about buildings – they are also about people”. This means that the public space of cities is understood above all as a living space, a social space that people can take ownership of and shape. Therefore, the method involves citizens from the beginning to understand their needs and aspirations. At the same time, Collaborative Placemaking creates a space for encounter and exchange within the framework of participatory workshops, also known as Charrettes. The goal of creating common living space brings together people who previously may had little to do with one another in everyday life. The design of public spaces using Collaborative Placemaking shapes human relationships, as Charles emphasizes: “It’s all about making connections.” In this way, cultural barriers and fear of contact can be reduced. People at a Charrette have experience of their public realm that, regardless of cultural differences, they can share. Together they can shape the design and use for the benefit of all.

The participation of all requires intercultural competence

But how can the needs of all residents be taken into account when designing/redesigning urban spaces, and not just those of a specific group? Publicly organised participation processes can sometimes be dominated by long-established citizens, often from the middle class. So how do you reach people who, because of their involvement in other social or cultural groups, have reservations about such processes or to whom the information might not even get through?

Here, Charles points to two main factors: First, the professional planning team must actively address the different target groups, seek out, inform, and encourage participation in places that are familiar and important to them. This includes, for example, visiting and appraising the site which is to be replanned. Second, the professional team may include members who share and understand the culture and language of the target group. This helps to build trust and facilitate understanding.

Design with a sense for cultural sensibilities

Charles also told me about his experiences in his international projects. These show that the reorganisation of a space can have a positive effect on people’s coexistence if the specific cultural conditions of the place are taken into account during the process. As part of the planning process, care must be taken to ensure that significant religious or cultural places remain untouched: “These are places not to develop but to respect,” explains Charles.

While redesigning Crumlin Road in Belfast, the design team faced what was still a tense relationship between Catholics and Protestants against the historical background of the Northern Ireland conflict. Here, during the collaborative planning process, representatives from both sides of the community divide were able to agree on much in terms of shared living space, such as the redesign of historic buildings and retail uses. In order to create a place where the people who use it every day really feel comfortable, a sense of cultural symbolism and identity is required.

Note on the text: This is a translation from the German original posted by Dr Ulrike Spohn on the blog of Bertelsmann Stiftung, following a talk Charles Campion gave at their location on 8th March 2018. Bertelsmann Stiftung is an organisation setup to investigate how we live together in diversity and how this can be shaped to ensure successful communities thrive.

The original text can be read here



Shaping better places together

During 2017 a specialist team from the University of Dundee (led by Dr. Husam AlWaer), Eclipse Research and Kevin Murray Associates, supported by the Scottish Government, undertook ground-breaking research into ‘the facilitation of participatory placemaking’.

Dr. Husam AlWaer said,

“The publication of the resulting report – ‘‘Shaping better places together” – marks what we believe is a first attempt to investigate the role and significance of facilitators in participatory community design processes. The topic is highly relevant, given the increasing application of participatory and community design events in Scotland and beyond, along with the use of engagement tools such as the Place Standard Tool.

This research provides an important scoping of the many components and steps involved. Its findings will aid understanding and ultimately enhance the output performance of community charrettes and similar participatory design processes.

The research should give confidence to professional facilitators, local authorities, local communities and the development industry active in collaborative processes, underpinning the investment in skills and expertise of appropriate facilitators.”

For the full report and Executive Summary visit:

Corridors of Freedom

On the 17 January, UCL Bartlett hosted a second event in London as part of its Large Scale Urban Development series. This time it was a unique opportunity to compare one of London’s opportunity area developments (Old Oak & Park Royal) with international projects of a similar scale.

Of particular interest, was the work of the Johannesburg City Council to radically address inequality through transport oriented interventions.

“It is officially recognised that apartheid spatial planning has left the City with sprawling low-density areas without viable public transport systems. The majority of working class and poor citizens are still living on the fringes of the city and have to commute over long distances to access work and economic opportunities.”
– Johannesburg City Council

The City Council used a wide range of participatory planning and consultation methods and employed non-technical drawing techniques to communicate ideas and themes to the public and encourage involvement.

Herman Pienaar (Director, City Transformation and Spatial Planning for the City of Johannesburg) presented a fascinating walkthrough of their public consultation processes. He described the complexities of Johannesburg and how government funding was crucial to land acquisition along key roadways into the centre of the city. These “corridors”, as they see it, are a means to get people from poor communities in the suburbs to their jobs in the core. This is also a way to encourage social mixing, getting black and white people to use the same transportation systems and the same services within the city.

“There will be a clean break with apartheid spatial distribution and people living on the periphery will be able to move closer to economic opportunities. The shape of the future City will consist of well-planned transport arteries – the “Corridors of Freedom”
– Johannesburg City Council

More on the Corridors of Freedom project can be found here

Communities by Design and the R/UDATs

The first case study in 20/20 Visions: Collaborative Placemaking and Planning is of the Santa Fe Railyard Regeneration. It’s a fascinating story of a town coming together to fight a plan for a disused railway yard drawn up without their involvement, to save its heritage and to radically envision an alternative future.

The opening of the case study begins with a question: “What to do with a large, valuable railyard that becomes available in the heart of the historic, thriving state capital of New Mexico – who decides?”. Up until this moment in the town’s history, no one had considered how citizens could actively shape the vision for an area that needed change. The case study goes onto to describe the months long process which was formulated to enable the community to share their stories and ideas. This set the scene for an American Institute of Architects Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team to lead a Charrette over a weekend in February 1997 and create a new Vision for the Railyard.

To see what it was like on the ground, the AIA’s Communities by Design released a short documentary available online, see link below:
Santa Fe’s Railyard Revival

Learn more about Communities by Design and the R/UDAT