The strangest street construction site in Espoo completed in record time
Starting from June, those visiting Keran Hallit can get a glimpse into what the streets of Espoo could look like in the future. On the 40-metre stretch of street leading to the entrance to Keran Hallit, loitering, skating and talking to strangers are not only allowed, but also encouraged.
At the start of June, the area in front of the entrance to Keran Hallit was turned into quite an unusual street construction site. Instead of a pipe trench blocking traffic, the area was filled with street paintings, wood-structured green walls with benches and planting troughs 3D-printed out of concrete.
Over the course of a week, the area in front of the main entrance to Keran Hallit was turned into a 40-metre-long pilot street that shows what the streets of Espoo could look like in the coming decades
The street’s entrance gate is being built by hand out of recycled wood by two of the designers of the street, architect Pekka Pakkanen and future housing specialist Kimmo Rönkä.
“Over the last hundred years, no one has really thought about all the potential things that a street could be,” Pekka Pakkanen states.
The former logistics area of Kera is being developed into a sustainable residential area of the future and a testbed for various pilots. For one such pilot, Pakkanen, Rönkä and designer Päivi Raivio set out to envision what a street of the future focusing on people could look like in Kera.
Contemporary streets are generally considered to be no more than routes for people and goods to pass through. But the three designers point out that streets have a myriad of different user groups. The street in front of your home is your closest environment, which needs to have space for hanging out, games and play as well. Young people enjoy street parties, while older folk appreciate sheltered places to sit. The street spaces of the future could be more human and smaller in scale than current ones. When necessary, street spaces can also change quickly.
“We could approach streets as spaces that are used in different ways in different seasons and times of day,” Pekka Pakkanen contemplates.
With this in mind, the Kera pilot street is full of light street equipment that can be moved in and out as necessary.
Speed limit replaced with suggestions to slow down
The two builders sit down on a wooden bench for their break. The backrest of the bench is a future green space. Next to the bench, there are two pallets of plants waiting to be planted in the seating group’s troughs and the street equipment made out of concrete with 3D printing technology. Although it is still under construction, the street is already an inviting hangout spot.
The numbers painted on the street are not speed limits, but rather ‘suggestions to slow down’, the designers explain.
“5 km/h for play areas, 20 km/h for block streets,” explains Kimmo Rönkä.
The designers are not chasing cars away from the street, however.
“It’s all about balance,” Pekka Pakkanen explains.
On pedestrian streets, children set the pace, while on larger streets, the lanes are shared by bicycles and cars.
The streets of the future are also greener. Climate changes makes this a necessity.
“We need to rewild cities,” Rönkä thinks.
With extreme weather phenomena likely to only grow more common, concrete jungles need to become greener. Adding greenery to streets helps with stormwater detention and temperature control.
Urban milk churn stands provide shelter from the weather
The screwdrivers fall silent for a moment as the two builders debate the structure of the benches to be placed under the roof of the glass-walled entrance pavilion.
The street’s entrance pavilion is something that you rarely see in contemporary cities: a place that does not serve any specific function beyond providing some shelter from the weather.
“These kinds of urban milk churn stands are missing from cities. In our climate, it is important to provide shelter from the weather,” says Pakkanen.
“Unlike cars, people are congestion-seeking. They go where other people go,” Rönkä continues.
Kimmo Rönkä points out that the street of the future in Kera is a pilot project intended to provoke and seek new ideas from people visiting Keran Hallit. The City of Espoo is developing the Kera area as an international example of circularity, where residents will be able to make sustainable choices in their everyday lives.
“In Kera, we want to create a place where various operators can test and develop sustainable solutions for the global challenges faced by cities. The street pilot is an excellent example of how a city can serve as a platform for testing new solutions,” says Development Manager Emmi Kauhanen from the City of Espoo.
The mini street in Kera also serves as a showcase for companies developing various sustainable urban solutions.
“In Kera, companies can develop the urban solutions of the future, which we hope will be replicated in other parts of Espoo – and the world. Through active development work, we can increase Espoo’s handprint, meaning its positive climate impact,” Kauhanen states.
The new street in Kera
Keran hallit, Karamalmintie 2, 02630 Espoo (located at the inner courtyard entrance to the halls)
TEXT AND IMAGES: Petja Partanen
- Urban development