Tag Archives: Helsinki

Nature For All Senses – The Sensory Garden in Kaisaniemi

Kaisaniemi Botanic Garden in Helsinki has a wonderful Sensory Garden that is well worth a visit. The garden features a wealth of plants you can look at, smell, touch and taste. And the best thing is, it’s free for everyone!

There are specific zones for each sense, for instance in touch zone you have a wide range of plants from velvety soft lamb’s ear to pointy junipers. There’s even a bare foot path to tickle your toes and a rock path to practice your balance. And although there was no zone for hearing, you could certainly enjoy the sound of dozens of bumblebees and flies buzzing around.

Places like this are really essential in urban areas where people don’t have many places for interacting with the nature. Visiting a garden like this is relaxing, educational and most of all, a lot of fun!

Jätkäsaari – Waiting For The Green

Jätkäsaari is a 100 hectare (250 acre) new neighbourhood in Helsinki, Finland. In the area that used to be the Western port of Helsinki, the construction of a 18 000 resident, 6 000 workplace new urban neighborhood is currently on the way. Thousands of people already live in Jätkäsaari, but the green areas and green elements in the public spaces are conspicuously absent.

Jätkäsaari will eventually get 20 hectares (490 acres) of public parks, including a large central park. But right now most of it is just a dusty fields reminiscent of Wild West imagery. Even the children’s playground is covered in rubber rather than anything living. When a large new area like Jätkäsaari is built in phases, the new residents often have to live years without proper green areas, surrounded by construction sites. In the Finnish urban development culture, the parks are usually built last, after the streets and buildings. That is because the city (that is responsible for building the parks) wants to gather a maximum amount of funds from the land sales before the construction of the recreational areas.

I like the relatively high urban density of the area but I really think there should be a much higher density of green spaces and structures as well. Bicycling around Jätkäsaari I could not help wondering if a bit more could be done to add green elements and spaces to the urban structure. Maybe the parks could be built in smaller phases? Why could there not be more trees on the streets and squares? Maybe small, movable green elements such as the ones featured on Nature Cots could be installed in public and private spaces?

Fortunately most of the block courtyards are quite green with vegetation since the car parking is mostly below grade. And there are a couple of trees and small vines on the streets as well. So at least the residents have some green spaces to resort to. But for the first residents the wait for the public green spaces has really been ruthlessly long. Let’s hope the city of Helsinki will speed up the construction of the green layer, add intensity to it and make Jätkäsaari become truly alive!

Vuosaarenhuippu – Man Made Wilderness

Vuosaarenhuippu hill in eastern Helsinki is an ecologically interesting destination. The 65 meter high hill used to be a dumping ground for construction waste until the late ’80s.  During the ’90s and early ’00s the area was converted into a wild fell-like recreational area. Today the hill has an impressive wealth of flora and fauna. There are currently over 400 species of plants, some of which are endangered. Also many wild animals such as fox, moose, viper, short-toed snake eagle and even lynx have been seen on the site.

Because of the dumping ground history the hill has metering, collection and treatment systems for potential gas and leakage emissions. The area works also as a refuge for doomed plants: many plants have been moved there from urban development areas around Helsinki. Also some land masses are still brought in from these areas. The seeds in these land masses are expected to further strengthen the biodiversity on the site.

Today the place still looks like a man made mound with lots of rocks, transplanted stumps, deadwood and other seemingly out of place quirks. But it is interesting to witness the biodiversity and to see how nature is really reclaiming the area.

Seabin Installed in Helsinki

Northern Europe’s first floating trash collector was just installed in Helsinki. The small sea cleaning gizmo called Seabin was placed in front Uunisaari island. The pilot project is a collaboration between the Seabin Project and the technology group Wärtsilä. Another Seabin will be added to the area in June. It will be interesting to see how successful this device is in cleaning the litter from the waters. Currently the seabin needs frequent maintenance and trash collection but we’ll see how the design evolves.

WSP Eco-efficient Terrace
WSP Eco-efficient Terrace

Eco Terrace First Prize!

The competition entry by WSP Finland team, including Mieluisa, won the shared 1st prize in the Eco-efficient Restaurant Terrace ideas competition organized by Climate Street and the City of Helsinki. The aim of the competition was to find new eco-efficient ways to prolong the restaurant terrace season in the Nordic climate. Big congratulations to the other winners Urban Gardens Finland and Arkkitehtuuritoimisto IAH as well!