Dancing Orchards moving through an alley in Jätkäsaari, Helsinki.
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!