Sustainable revitalisation of Turku areas

Sustainable revitalisation of Turku areas

Group planning a city area in a roundtable setting.

Turku neighbourhoods reinvented at the UBC Planning and Sustainable Cities Commission meeting organised on 13-15 September 2023!

Mid-September is the perfect time to visit Turku, an ambitiously smart and sustainable city in Finland, working towards reaching carbon neutrality already in 2029. Turku is built around the river Aura – but what’s more important (at least where the international cooperation is concerned), it also stands on the shores of the Baltic Sea. Like in many other cities, for a long time Turku citizens have had a limited access to the sea due to different industries and port activities. This is changing now, and the city is looking into the first ideas developed for the vision that is called in strategies the “Waterfront Turku” (Merellinen Turku).

How will the new neighbourhoods look like in Turku as a waterfront city? 64 participants from 19 different BSR cities took pens and markers, joining the development of the visions for task areas. The wide array of the geographical as well as professional backgrounds brought to the drawing desks unique knowledge about local solutions and best practices in sustainable urban planning. Three active days of co-creative planning workshops developing five different city areas – both on the sea and on the river – allowed a hands-on experience exchange, inspiring everyone to consider the planning process from a holistic perspective.

City leadership taking an active role

Turku city leadership was thoroughly involved in the event giving presentations, discussing and providing feedback on the developed visions. Many also took active part in the workshops – including Elina Rantanen, the Deputy Mayor of Turku and the 1st Vice-President of UBC.

"I think these events are excellent places to exchange experiences and knowledge, I hope that every city that is present in this event gets to bring something home. At least we in Turku are happy that there are so many people working for our areas,"
— Elina Rantanen

And it’s not only Turku, which will benefit from the meeting now and in the future! It was also a great opportunity for the participants to bring home new ideas and solutions, which can be integrated into local processes.

Elina Rantanen greeting the participants of the event.

Planetary boundaries

One of the highlights of the event were the presentations regarding the City of Turku – its strategies and visions, – but even more, the inspiring guest lecture on planetary boundaries by Susa Eräranta, Professor of Practice at Aalto University and Project Director at the City of Helsinki.

"We need to move from sustainable to regenerative development and we need massive reduction scenarios to meet ambitious climate goals,"
— Susa Eräranta

The concept of planetary urban planning in which the boundaries of the planet’s life-supporting systems are taken equally into account with the boundaries of economy and society, became a reference point in rethinking five Turku neighbourhoods into blue-green, inclusive and thriving public hubs. With this inspiration in mind, the participants headed for a guided site visit to look at the task areas and start the process of creative brainstorming.

Redesigned city spaces

For the first workshop area in western city district four kilometers from the city centre (ARTUKAINEN), the mixed land use was proposed on existing/former airport structures, fulfilled with the urban pattern created in human scale accompanied with green corridors, natural stormwater solutions improving biodiversity and sustainable mobility transportation opportunities. The main axis was designed as a sequence of key public spaces, public transport hubs and iconic buildings.

The second workshop area THE INDUSTRIAL WATERFRONT BETWEEN PANSIONTIE AND POHJOISSALMI – part of the Turku waterfront – was studied by as many as three project groups. All of them worked according to the trend of planetary planning. The participants focused on climate responsibility, proposed solutions based on the idea of a well-connected 15-minute city with housing for different communities, jobs needed to enforce the economic growth of the city and its inhabitants; social infrastructure and sustainable mobility were much considered and proposed. Environmental issues were strongly emphasized, touching upon biodiversity, energy production and stormwater management for a regenerative urban future.

The third workshop area was the sequence of public squares along the western side of Aura river (VEISTÄMÖNAUKIO & VARVINTORI, ARCHIPELAGO BOAT HARBOUR, BORENAUKIO). The first step was removing the possibility of parking in these spaces, greening the areas and creating possibilities for better physical contact with the water: with river and stormwater as well. New activities were proposed to make the areas more attractive all year round for different age groups of users.

How about sustainability?

Whilst the final presentations of the redesigned city spaces, it was easy to notice how sustainable solutions met creative urban planning on many fronts, with a prominent example of stormwater management.

Stormwater retention and increased permeability were introduced in several task area plans, while in others, the approach was instead to shape the potential stormwater stream into a pleasing urban design element. E.g. the impervious surfaces of a planned skatepark could be shaped so that in case of heavy rain, water flows to the right direction of the river, passing through the innovative filtering solutions. And in a children’s playground, rainwater can be retained for other engaging purposes – to establish a closer connection with nature, so that kids could play with mud, wet sand or just puddles of water before it soaks into the soil. Children are happy and the only thing adults need to worry about is laundry!

The main aim of organising this joint Commission meeting was to ensure a truly holistic approach to the urban planning process from the sustainability perspective – and it was a success! Architects and planners designed the spaces together with experts in sustainability, integrating the flood protection measures and biodiversity support, considering energy efficiency aspects and adding mobility hubs to the area maps. Social sustainability was also a core factor taken into account, and the inclusiveness of the spaces was ensured not only for citizens of varied interests and ages, but also for the endangered species.


Written by: Mariia Andreeva, Agnieszka Ilola, Melina Kovanen, Lotta Lehti, Adham Maharramli, Natacia Press (UBC SCC), and Paulina Szewczyk (UBC PCC)

Group picture with participants of the event sitting in the auditorium room.