A couple of days ago I went for a longish walk in the Helsinki Jätkäsaari area. The aim of my walk was to have a look at what is new in this new part of Helsinki, now heavily still under construction. A while ago I have stayed at the rather new Hotel Clarion, owned by a Norwegian hotel investor. What I liked best, was a dip into the 16th floor heated pool, located in the the freezing cold roof terrace.


I also enjoyed the view from my room and the transparent middle part, where the landscape elevators are placed. There will later be an article by me about the hotel, in

Jätkäsaari is also known for its passenger ship harbour. A new and more efficiently functioning terminal building will soon be opened.

What puzzled me was the strange mixture of dark and hard-looking apartment buildings, some really flashy but some also painted with strange colours. Many of the houses seemed to be shouting for attention – and some, in contrast, seemed to want to look as unfriendly as possible and harbour-area cool. In places, the outer appearance of the streets was somehow very dark and unfriendly.


It is not fair to write criticism about an area where there are no parks yet. I saw lots of trucks and construction site vechiles, and some real people. That is: Jätkäsaari new inhabitants. A lot of buildings are already occupied by new owners or tenants, and some of the houses are price-controlled. The pricing is really high, as Helsinki builds so little they the price niveau has reached incredible levels. There is no functioning market as long as the demand is relatively higher then what is put to the market.

There also is a new ”Wood City” already under construction, as well as a new school building, by Anttinen Oiva Architects.

When I entered from the tram 9 stop in front of a big web store building (Called Verkkokauppa) and walked towards the snakelike meandering yet unplanted park, I had the feeling of being somewhere in Outer Mongolia. Surprisingly, the first building that I faced, seemed to be a product by one of the best architecture studios that I know in Finland, JKMM. On the park side it looked very brutal but then there is a courtyard built with light coloured bricks.


Here is an image from the courtyard side.


One building that already also has some inhabitants is a student housing project by Playa Architects, but even there the courtyard was still undone. It is an example of the now fashionable and rigid ”coin slot” architecture. I must still visit the building and also have a look at its common spaces. There is another student housing unit still under construction, and designed by a highly experienced architecture practise Brunow & Maunula.


Here is an image of the inner courtyard of the already finished part of the block.


I will not yet write any more precise comments, and will soon make a special tour together with my colleague Asko Takala from Sivén Takala Architects, to see how Helsinki builds its new, horribly expensive housing – as far as the pricing goes. Then my readers will also get a better picture of what is going on in our capital and its former harbour or oil tank harbour areas.

The unbuilt area in the image below is later supposed to become a park. Typical for Jätkäsaari housing are the funny looking ”kiosks” or smaller houses on top of six floor – apartment buildings.




  1. ”Helsinki builds so little”

    That’s relative, I’d say. The output doesn’t meet the demand, and the market doesn’t work very well, but there is, in fact, a lot of construction at the moment. The 2015 numbers were 4100 new units completed and nearly 6000 started, so the number of completions is likely on its way up at the moment. Historically, that’s pretty significant growth for Helsinki. The population has been growing by about 7500 people per year for the past few years (total 635 591 at the end of last year). Of course, the demand is such that the growth in population is essentially decided by the planning of new housing. Then there’s Vantaa and Espoo, which are also building quite a bit.


  2. I agree about the harshness of Jätkäsaari. Of course the parks and trees will help a lot, but for whatever reason, the street-level details are quite bleak, or just missing. Are the architects indifferent, incapable or just not allowed to do better? Part of the problem is that the buildings are too large: the city allots properties the size of a whole city block, which are then developed by one company, so you get a monotonous facade the length of a block. I guess smaller properties would be politically unpalatable and easily labeled inefficient, since the favorite construction companies obviously prefer building big buildings in the name of efficiency.

    Kalasatama has the same problem to some extent, compounded by the concentration of retail and services to a massive shopping center that’s under construction. At least Jätkäsaari is not planned to get one of those. Yet, anyway. The plans for the commercial center are not final yet, so I guess they can still try to pull a trick and fatten whatever retail space there is to a shopping center size.

    Liked by 1 henkilö

  3. Dear Mikko! Thanks for your comment! When I was there for a walk, the weather was – in spite of the sunshine – just awfully harsh. I did not take many photographs of the pedestrian level on the new streets, but the streetscape is, for a walking person, somehow unfriendly, under-designed or mostly just too plain, to create any kind of pleasant pedestrian experiences. If Jätkäsaari gets a more or less mall-like shopping centre, we can forget something that we could call ”a new urban part of the city”. My next walk there will concentrate on the pedestrian experience. – But: Töölö also has big urban blocks. Even so, the experience the quality of the facades and that of a pedestrian is a lot better – due to better materials and detailing and layout of the ground floor facades and obviously also because of the fact that there are all kinds of shops and different entrepreneurs, bars, cafés and such. And trees – except for the Mechelininkatu Street where the trees just almost disappeared overnight. What a shame!



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