Helsinki FI

Type Open competition in two phases, 2nd place
Team ALA Architects, Skanska Construction Company and Sato Construction Company
Role Responsible for urban space and landscape design
Client State of Finland and Helsinki Municipality
Size 5 ha
Project Start 2018
Status Completed


Highrise buildings are challenged by the distance between urban space and residents. The competition is a study of how we create pleasant and welcoming urban spaces in highrise areas.


In our proposal, people come first. Through a set of actions, we create a good place to work, live, grow up or grow old in this complex site between an office and shopping center and large infrastructure.

Helsinki highrise sun studies
The buildings are organized to ensure as much sunlight in the square as possible.
Helsinki highrise wind and road noise principle
Landforms reduce road noise and create a visual barrier to the road.
Helsinki highrise wind principle
Trees break the wind and establish a good microclimate around the buildings.
Helsinki highrise Plan drawing

Good microclimate is everything

Buildings are placed and designed in order to avoid wind tunnels and downwash. Green landforms and lush and diverse tree plantings downscale the atmosphere and break the wind.

The landscape surrounding the new square secure a good microclimate around the buildings, as well as emphasizes the human scale and intimate character.

Helsinki highrise Overview

Human scale is needed

People feel at home in intimate urban spaces. Here we can relax, take a break and interact with each other. The plinth of a highrise is the key to downscaling the building. All plinths and ground floors in this project have a public program that allows interaction between indoor and outdoor. The height differences of up to 10m in the site create possibilities for a city

space scenography, where multiple levels create several possibilities for views and stay. High quality in outdoor spaces is even more important with highrise as the residents don’t have a private courtyard. Here we have gathered the buildings around one intimate square, that would function as the common ‘living room’.

The challenge of accumulating urban life

The neighboring shopping mall has accumulated all commercial functions from the area and doesn’t leave much space for adding new ones. To gather life and people on the ground floor we concentrate all local urban

programs and activities in the intimate square. This will work as the main gathering point and dynamo for human interactions. All building entrances are through the square, together with the public functions it ensures life in the space.

Helsinki highrise Activties in the central Square
The square becomes the neighborhood living room, a distinct paving creates the carpet and a large urban furniture functions as framework work urban events and activities.
Helsinki highrise Square Paving

A strong identity establish ownership

To strengthen the identity and attraction value of the city spaces a strong visual character is necessary. Materials are inspired by the railway history of the site and based on their tactility and warm character. The natural rocks are preserved,

together with plantings, carefully designed plinths, and a distinct pavement we establish a strong identity. A pleasant atmosphere and a wide range of functions and programs makes an attractive space that people would use, love and take responsibility for.

Helsinki highrise Square in Winter

Concentrating urban life in one spot leaves space for a local park

We have modeled the landscape with earth forms and low areas, and this lush and wild growing park stands in contrast to the urban square. The two compliments and emphasizes each other’s qualities. Large and noisy infrastructure define one of the site’s borders. The earth forms reduce

the traffic noise and create a playful landscape ideal for childhood games, a morning run or the evening walk. The low areas are a part of the rain water management strategy as they delay the water. Altogether this creates a large variety of habitats for insects and animals.

Helsinki highrise bird view
Area seen from the south. The site is located between the central park and the city center and is partly old railway tracks.