Urban green oases attracted both pollinators and locals

During summer 2021, Malminkartano and Malmi served as testing environments for movable urban green oases. The positive feedback garnered by the oases bodes well for future pilots.

Lauri Rotko / City of Helsinki

The urban green oases, or green hangout spots, were set up on Malminkartanonaukio square and Ylä-Malmi square for the summer and early autumn. Built out of movable elements, the oases featured benches, edible plants for people and flowers for pollinators. The Malminkartano oasis also included a chessboard for recreation. 

The urban green oases created pleasant meeting places in the areas, which also served as venues for small-scale events during the summer. 

“The purpose of these kinds of pilots is to find new solutions for Helsinki. In this pilot, we wanted to test how contemporary green solutions work as meeting places and how they contribute to the pleasantness of sites awaiting redevelopment,” says the Helsinki Innovation Districts project’s Project Manager Maija Bergström

The purpose of the Helsinki Innovation Districts project is to test new services, solutions and technologies in Helsinki’s suburban regeneration areas and Pasila. The urban green oases created by InnoGreen and Parkly were the first pilots carried out in the project. 

The pilots provided the two companies with useful insights for the further development of their concepts. Consisting of multiple parts, the green modules can be quickly assembled in different places and used for a variety of purposes. In the future, these types of urban green oases could be set up near construction sites to reduce noise and dust and to direct traffic, for example.

“The Parkly modules are easy to move and customise, so the green hangout spots built out of them are suitable for all kinds of locations and can be adapted to the environment,” says designer Päivi Raivio.

Next, Parky is testing a new, easy-to-use 3D and augmented reality tool “Parkly Create” for designing hangout spots in collaboration with residents.

Feedback to help plan future pilots

The green pilots were positively received by the residents of Malmi and Malminkartano, who praised the lush appearance of Innogreen’s oasis and the participation opportunities offered by Parkly in particular. Residents also submitted development ideas regarding the location of the oases in the area and the associated recreational opportunities. One of the submitted development ideas concerned adding parkour structures for children. 

Many of the area’s residents were concerned that the green structures would end up being destroyed or vandalised. Yet despite these fears, the stops remained undisturbed for the duration of the season. Their maintenance was handled by the companies.

“The fact that the structure was placed in a public space raised some concerns that it might get vandalised. These concerns proved to be unfounded, however, and we were surprised by the amount of positive feedback. The residents of Malminkartano really made the urban green oasis their own,” says Mikko Sonninen, the CEO of Innogreen.

“The pilots showed how relatively minor but concrete measures can impact the pleasantness of urban space and vitalise the cityscape,” says Project Director Max Takala from the Helsinki City Executive Office’s Urban Development unit.

According to him, concrete pilots are always welcome in the urban development sector, where development often takes a long time.

Insights for the city on the needs of the areas

For the Helsinki Innovation Districts project, the pilot provided concrete results in terms of both the use of the urban green oases and local residents’ experiences. The project gained insight into the needs of pilots carried out in street spaces and how communication about future pilots should be carried out in the districts. The lessons learned will serve as the basis for the next Helsinki Innovation Districts pilots. 

The feedback received from residents has been summarised so that it can be effectively utilised in urban development. The project also provided the City of Helsinki with valuable information on the use of new types of green structures.  

“Urban green oases can improve the pleasantness of areas and communicate climate goals. Testing solutions with residents in urban living labs like Malminkartano and Malmi helps companies develop their services and the City to recognise the potential of the products being tested,” says Bergström. 

The planning of the next pilots that will be visible in the street space is already well underway.