Helsinki South Harbor Redevelopment
UCLA | AUD | Instr. Kivi Sotamaa

Beloved by the city’s citizens and its tourists, courtyards are a significant feature of urban life in Helsinki, and have persistently recurred in new forms in all stages of the city’s development. While streets form vectors of movement, courtyards offer a respite from these mechanics, creating spaces of leisure, recreation and enjoyment.

By removing the ferry terminals to the outer edge of Katajanokka, the project brings the city directly to the harbor’s edge, and in so-doing, proposes that Etelasatamaa becomes like a courtyard at the scale of the city.

Currently dispersed around the harbor’s edge, the energy contained in the constant commuter and tourist traffic that makes use of the ferry infrastructure is diluted by the vast, unfocused space that the terminals occupy. We propose that this redundant and inefficient infrastructure is replaced by a single, new superterminal on the underdeveloped eastern edge of Katajanokka. The new superterminal would concentrate ferry traffic, activating new terminal amenities previously not possible, and intensify pedestrian movement along the northern edge of the harbor. The energy in this newly concentrated movement will help to actavite the developing arts and cultural district there, and allow development there to expand to the harbor’s edge.

These new vectors of movement between the superterminal and the city center are inflected by the enclosing geometries encountered in the historic city fabric, both its buildings and its harborside pools, to become more tangled and nodal along the harbor's southern edge.

This geometry is used along the souther edge of the harbor--a space that was long a missing link between the central Helsinki esplanade and the network of pedestrian promenades that ring the adjacent coastline--to created new type of public space. In this area, primarily occupied by parks and residential, a new elevated path network based on the beaux arts geometry of the adjacent park is proposed to loop playfully around a networked series of courtyards enclosed by townhouses, apartments and amenity retail. The looping network forms the rooftops of this new development and is connected the the elevated park to the west, creating a building form that is a hybrid of private development and public amenity.

While typical waterside redevelopments take on the familiar form of the broad, largely flat, linear park, a hybrid of park and development, of linear and nodal form is proposed here. Courtyards frame views across the harbor, and the elevated park creates a new relationship to the water’s edge: that of a cliff, present nowhere else on the Finnish coast.

This strategy brings new energy to the harbor, both from residents and visitors, from park-goers and shoppers, tourists and locals. This new urban amenity will become a colorful neighborhood from its use and enjoyment. Like the procuracy building on the north side of Piazza San Marco in Venice, the architecture mediates the color, both literal and figurative, that lives both behind and in front of it.