City of Turku held Baltic Urban Lab’s Joint City Pilot Review meeting in the recently opened Visitor and Innovation Center Joki on Tuesday, 13 February 2018.

Baltic Urban Lab is an EU co-funded cross-border cooperation project that aims at improving urban planning in the Baltic Sea region.

New integrated planning and partnership models for brownfield regeneration are created and tested in practice in Norrköping, Tallinn, Turku and Riga and made available to all cities in the region to help them in revitalization of urban space and support the development of smart, sustainable city districts with high-quality living and working environments.

The event was organized as a part of Baltic Urban Lab project activities and attendees came from partnering cities Tallinn, Norrköping and Turku as well as University of Turku, Union of the Baltic Cities (UBC) Sustainable Cities Commission, INTERREG Central Baltic Programme and Nordregio.

–We had the pleasure of hosting the Pilot Review meeting and presenting current city development projects to our international partners, says Riitta Birkstedt, Project Manager at the City of Turku.

Urban planners and experts from the partnering cities and organizations were welcomed by Timo Hintsanen (Director of City Planning at the City of Turku), who gave an interesting  introductory presentation about the spearhead project, master plan and the vision regarding the Turku Science Park area and the Itäharju triangle. The development of the area will proceed in phases, with an idea competition starting already this year.

–The city will launch the pilot area development through an innovation competition during 2018. The competition is used to find solutions and ideas that can be used to minimize the impact of the motorway and the railroad, says Janne Mustonen, Baltic Urban Lab project coordinator.

The integration challenge was also in focus in the Case Study Workshop. The workshop concentrated on finding innovative solutions to overcoming physical barriers or functional limitations in city planning especially in the Itäharju Triangle, which is the Baltic Urban Lab’s Pilot Site in Turku. More specifically, the following questions guided the discussions and brainstorming in the session:

  • How the planned area can be connected with the surrounding city structure in different innovative ways?  
  • How the light traffic could be integrated?
  • What kind of services can be developed within the Pilot Site area?

Further thematics for brainstorming related to thinking about the preconditions for the idea competition for finding the possible cover structure (bridge, deck, roof or cover) for connecting the Itäharju triangle more strongly with Kupittaa.

–The connection of territories enables Science park development in the pilot area. Pilot area and the cover structure is aimed to be the intensive joint development of services and urban structures, explains Mustonen.

Before everyone was divided into groups and started to find solutions for Turku's urban planning challenge, everyone got the chance to visit the Itäharju triangle themselves - a refreshing experience for the Baltic Urban Lab project partners as they got to see and experience the Pilot Site. This also helped to put the ideas and suggestions into perspective later on. Cities also got to present their own experiences with similar challenges in their own cities and to give suggestions to Turku.

–In spite of differences between cities, we are all dealing with similar city development issues. This enables us to learn from and with each other, says Birkstedt.

The final part of the day, the Case Study Workshop, was held in a lively manner and gathered insights and suggestions that were regarded as fruitful by Turku's Birkstedt and Mustonen. Some ideas were bold and inspiring, some concrete pointers to what to do differently.

–One highlight in the workshop was definitely our discussion on the emotional dimension of city planning. Sometimes mental barriers can become as important as physical barriers, and on the other hand starting the planning process from the emotional aspect – what kind of emotions we would like to encourage with certain physical construction – may lead us to seek totally novel solutions, describes Birkstedt.