The most important life in the city takes place between buildings and not indoors, says urban developer Janne Viitamies. This has also been taken into account in the new urban centre, Tripla. Street space is a natural part of the shopping centre, and passers-by do not need to know whether they are in or outside the mall.
Many of us here in Finland like to meet others outdoors—whether for a morning coffee or brunch, after-work conversation with drinks or just to enjoy an ice-cream, watching people passing by.
The best thing about the city is the street life. Therefore, it is not without significance what the street space of a shopping centre is like. Right from the beginning of the planning for Tripla in Pasila and its shopping centre, the Mall of Tripla, it was clear that the planning work would also include the outdoor spaces.
Kalle Soini mentions that one of the design principles has been that the building’s outer spaces enliven the street space. Soini heads the architectural design of Tripla at Soini & Horto Oy.
The guiding idea is that a modern centre made for the future cannot be a confined space.
“Entrances must be positioned so that they are a natural part of the street network, so that the shopping centre will become part of the pedestrians’ daily routes.”
In the Mall of Tripla, each of its four commercial floors is connected to street space.
Urban experience comes from people
Urban developer Janne Viitamies completed his doctorate last year. The name of his dissertation was Kenen Aleksi, sen Helsinki (roughly, “Who controls Aleksanterinkatu, controls Helsinki”). The dissertation explains how the pedestrian city centre in Helsinki was born and how it has evolved.
Viitamies points out that the urban structure is formed in the street, both mentally and socially. The urban experience is born out of the fact the people move about in the streets. That there is life in the city.
“If you cannot see any people, the city feels dull. The vibrancy of city centres comes from people moving about, spending time. The sign of a living city is its people,” Viitamies says.
He urges us to reflect on where we go when we visit new cities abroad: we go to places where there are others, that is, places that attract us.
“When people are asked to name the centre of Helsinki, one place that is often mentioned is the Three Smiths Square. This is because the square is a very busy pedestrian route. Each city has its own “Three Smiths Square”. For instance, in New York it’s Times Square.”
In recent years, the idea that life in the city is lived between buildings and not indoors, has gained popularity in Finland as well.
Pasila development plans go back a long time
Dan Mollgren, Project Manager at Helsinki City Planning Department, points out that, for the past hundred years in the long history of the city, Pasila has been regarded as an important urban hub. Already Eliel Saarinen envisaged that the area is an important meeting point.
Alvar Aalto, too, had city centre plans for Pasila.
“When designing the new centre for Pasila, we soon discovered that it had to be big, even bigger than anybody had thought. At the same time, we began to realize that the area cannot be designed for just one function but must be created for a number of different uses. And those different uses must overlap.”
Mollgren says that what makes Tripla sustainable and attractive in the long run is the quality of indoor and outdoor space.
Shopping malls were originally created to mimic old towns and their narrow streets. Cities, in turn, took the idea of shopping malls further and began to set up pedestrianized streets in their centres.
The cycle continues. Now, with the Mall of Tripla, the city centre goes indoors again, with the city and the shopping mall forming a seamless whole together with the street space. The indoor alleyways and squares are easily accessible from the terraces in the street space.
Public art adds to quality
As a classic example of a successful dialogue between a shopping mall and its surrounding milieu, Viitamies mentions the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, located in Piazza del Duomo, Milan.
People can wander in the area without even realizing that from time to time they enter the mall.
Kalle Soini remarks that this idea has also been a major factor in the design of Tripla. Even materials, such as the granite in the station, continue to the shopping centre.
“We designed a large series of public spaces including the station square and the station hall, the middle block and the residential park, all of which are public or semi-public spaces. Not even the yards will be closed spaces, as has been customary.”
Furthermore, the bridge joining East and West Pasila will be built to resemble a wide urban boulevard rather than a bridge.
In Soini’s view, good design is based on carefully evaluating the impact of a new building on the environment and ensuring that it gives something to its environment.
“In Tripla’s case, it gives a lot.”
Soini emphasizes that close cooperation with the City of Helsinki has been a major factor in the success of the project. For example, the public transport terminal in front of the station will also be a natural part of the whole.
He also commends investment in public art. The City of Helsinki and YIT organized a general competition for the art of Fredikanterassi. The competition was won by Akseli Leinonen with his work Ecology stone.
“The quality objectives of public outdoor space have been kept high. In addition, the importance of artistic values and aesthetics to people has been well understood,” Soini says.
The Fredikanterassi art competition was won by Akseli Leinonen with his work Ecology stone.
* The jury mentioned that the work is dramatic and contains a strong tension, creating an interesting contrast between nature and the built environment. The work lives subtly with the times.
* The competition sought permanent, site-based works that would reinforce Fredikanterassi’s character as a meeting and entertainment venue.
* The first phase of the competition was attended by 148 proposals, eight of which made it to the short list.
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