Built and natural environment

Urban Lab Spaces

Urban lab spaces are physical spaces for facilitating innovation and collaboration. They bring residents, companies, researchers and cities together to co-create urban futures and function as catalysts for innovator networks. Urban lab spaces can also serve as testbeds and showrooms for technological innovations in real life settings.

Urban lab spaces function as home bases for living labs and support and showcase local activities and pilots. They enable a stronger presence in an area under development and foster interactions between urban innovators by providing a common, physical space for meetings, events and networking. In Kalasatama, a local urban lab space has been found very effective when bringing the expertise and resources of different professionals, companies and city officials around the same table for facilitated collaboration.

Ideally, urban lab spaces function as platforms for innovation and networking while also promoting resource efficiency. Depending on how an urban lab is set up, the space can be used by multiple user groups for different purposes, such as workshops, co-working and meetings. Residents, for example, can be allowed to use the space for their own gatherings and activities, or individual rooms can be rented for smaller working groups at the same time. Because of various potential use cases, it is essential for living lab orchestrators to first identify the most important ones and pay close attention to interior and service design when setting up an urban lab. Smart services can also play an important role in increasing the potential of more flexible and efficient use of the space.

Urban pop-ups

Urban pop-up spaces provide a place for collaboration and new ideas. They bring together citizens, businesses, researchers and city employees to brainstorm and create the city’s future. They serve as showrooms for new technologies and solutions and as meeting places for developers, people involved in pilot activities and those interested in urban development, among others.

The neighborhood pop-up spaces are local meeting points that support living lab work. Conceptually they emphasize the temporary nature that is typical of pilots. They are particularly needed during the intensive phases of living lab activities when having meet-ups, workshops and visiting the experimentation sites. The pop-up
spaces support the pilot activities and raise awareness of the Helsinki Innovation Districts project in the vicinity. A pop-up space is useful for presenting the selected themes and new solutions under development and to communicate to residents and other actors what is being done.

In order to run a pop-up space, it is necessary to acknowledge the local actors and the space’s main uses. The resource-wise use of spatial resources is an important part of the Helsinki Innovation Districts project. The spaces should be equipped according to users’ needs and the principles of the circular economy considered when choosing furniture, for example. Where possible, the pop-up spaces are opened to local actors, for example for meetings and events. The versatile use of the spaces is made possible, for example, by using smart locks.


Pop-up Space in Malminkartano

A temporary pop-up event space was opened in Malminkartano in spring 2022. The space, located in Malminkartano square, showcases the changes taking place in the area. The illustrations on the windows tell the pilots’ story and of the urban renewal taking place in the area. The temporary space is furnished lightly with recycled furniture and hosts meetings for residents, activists, businesses and partners. The space was also used for many resident-driven activities, such as flea markets and community dinner.

The urban pop-up space in Malminkartano promotes urban development and innovation. The space was created in a long-vacant commercial building, highlighting a key urban problem in many areas: empty and underused spaces. Temporary use attracts attention and encourages ideas for new uses. At its best, it helps landlords to find tenants and neighborhoods to access new services. The Malminkartano pop-up was open at least until the end of 2023.

Kalasatama Urban Lab

Kalasatama Urban Lab (2018–2022) was a co-creation space for local actors in Helsinki’s Kalasatama district. Since then, several co-creation and networking events have been organised by Forum Virium Helsinki in order to bring stakeholders together to innovate and find new development opportunities and synergies. The space has also been widely used by city officials, companies, researchers and residents for their own meetings and events as well as for introducing the district to international visitor groups.

Located in the smart district of Helsinki, Kalasatama Urban Lab has offered an important local base for piloting activities and their planning in Kalasatama. In addition, the urban lab itself has functioned as a testbed for sharing spaces. User journeys of different user groups have been studied in order to understand what kind of additional services and solutions are required for more efficient use of shared spaces.

With the help of a smart locking system and an online booking calendar, the space is flexibly offered for independent use. Especially the residents of local housing companies and joint building projects in Kalasatama have taken advantage of the possibility of independently accessing Kalasatama Urban Lab during evenings. Although urban labs ideally function as physical platforms for innovation and networking, Kalasatama Urban Lab has also found new uses when the space and its equipment were adjusted to meet the needs of remote meetings and webinars during the Covid-19 pandemic.