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Sat December 09 2023

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Helsinki launches design contest for waterfront area

12 May 21 Finland's capital, Helsinki, is inviting proposals for the redevelopment of the final old harbour area to be transformed for public use.

View of Makasiiniranta and Helsinki’s wider South Harbour area and archipelago
View of Makasiiniranta and Helsinki’s wider South Harbour area and archipelago

Operators in the construction, architecture and real estate sectors are invited to register to enter the design competition by 21st June 2021.

The waterfront Makasiiniranta area is intended to become a new cultural heart of Helsinki. The competition plans are to allow for the creation of an internationally prominent architecture and design museum complex, which will merge the two existing museums - the Museum of Finnish Architecture and the Design Museum - across an area tentatively set to 9,000m2. Further leisure uses may also be planned for the waterfront destination, including a hotel, retail space, restaurants and walkable public realm.

In phase 1, approved participants will submit a plan for the area as a competition entry under a pseudonym by December 2021. Entries will be placed on public display.

A selection of the four best entries will be chosen in early 2022 as evaluated by a multidisciplinary panel. In the second phase competitors will prepare develop their entry.

The winner will be announced in autumn 2022. The successful development and architecture consortium then responsible for the functional, economic and technical realisation of the concept in the subsequent years. A separate architecture competition for the design and architecture museum will be launched following the selection of a development partner.

South Harbour is regarded as a valuable yet under-utilised asset for the city. Every Helsinkian lives less than 10km from the sea and access to the water is widely credited as vitally significant for the population’s identity, wellbeing and vibrant lifestyle. The designated development area of over 83,000m2 of waterfront land is currently used for the Port’s terminal operations and parking.

The launch of the design competition to develop Makasiiniranta at South Harbour is seen by the city as coming at a crucial time for global cities emerging from the pandemic. Urban planners are being challenged to reimagine how public space will be best designed and used in the future, with a newly-informed appreciation for the health effects of green and blue areas.

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The Old Market Hall is within the planning area
The Old Market Hall is within the planning area

The competition has been conceived with a number of planning principles stipulated to protect the character of the maritime facade and key sightlines within the city, including Helsinki Cathedral and Uspenski Cathedral. The competition area extends from the northern edge of the Market Square’s Cholera Basin to the south side of Olympia Terminal, following the old railway shaft to the northern corner of Kaivopuisto. Several buildings of significant conservation value are located within the planning area, including the Old Market Hall - the oldest market hall in Finland which opened in 1889 - and Olympia Terminal designed for the 1952 Summer Olympics. All are to be preserved and respectfully reconceived within the masterplan.

The Makasiiniranta competition is being led by the City of Helsinki, with a multidisciplinary evaluation jury consisting of governmental representatives and impartial design experts.

Mayor of Helsinki Jan Vapaavuori said: “Cities evolve in response to cultural, societal, technological and economic shifts through time. Every generation should have the opportunity to improve the city they live in, and the transformation of this final part of South Harbour will integrate the heart of the city with access to the sea and archipelago, which are special characteristics of Helsinki’s identity. As this global pandemic has upended how we use public spaces and facilities, it is an appropriate and important time to look ahead and create a long-term foundation for all future Helsinkians that makes best public use of a prime piece of the city’s seafront and to give it the prominence it deserves.”

Hanna Harris, chief design officer at the city of Helsinki, added: “This is a significant moment for urban development and the competition provides a canvas for new ideas, spatial uses, and design solutions that will improve the city of Helsinki on a long-term and sustainable basis. We have the opportunity to reassess and redefine what our city and its residents need as the best possible conditions for urban life, offering a place that prioritises accessibility for all. High-quality architecture and well-planned public spaces are essential, and we look forward to uncovering new possibilities for our city that balance Helsinki’s rich cultural and national heritage with innovative new uses.”

Rikhard Manninen, head of the urban planning division at the City of Helsinki, said: “The Makasiiniranta competition follows recent years of strategic planning for Helsinki to develop the attractiveness and and vitality of the city centre, to enable a better urban life for residents and visitors. It is vital that this prime part of Helsinki and its access to the sea become a lively part of the city in future years and we are committed to realising plans for the site while upholding our carbon-neutral goals for the city.”

Kaarina Gould, Project Director for the new Architecture & Design Museum, said: “The creation of a culturally intensive site which is as centrally-located and nationally relevant as Makasiiniranta is a turning point for Helsinki. The last year has been a catalyst for the work that lies ahead for cultural institutions, and we are encouraged by support for the arts to carry forward this opportunity to realise a new district centred around the new architecture and design museum and Finland’s design legacy.”

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