Global Open Innovation Contest for City Landmark

Published Feb-13-14

An international open innovation contest sought ideas for the redevelopment of an in important harbor front area in Helsinki.

City Planning Department, Helsinki, Finland

The Story:

 Global Open Innovation Contest for City Landmark Helsinki’s South Harbor area is an important gateway to the city and country. It’s the largest passenger harbor in Finland and an area that’s very close to the center of Helsinki, “an essential part of the city’s identity”.

To generate some fresh thinking about how the 23-hectare waterfront district can be improved and integrated more into Finland’s capital, the City of Helsinki organized a global open innovation competition. Ideas were sought for the future development of the area that would improve pedestrian traffic, cycling connections and spaces as well as increase the efficiency of port operations. Other problems that had to be addressed were that parking and pick-up and drop-off areas took up a lot of space.

Challenge participants were invited to think of new uses for some of South Harbor’s buildings or create new ones. In describing the challenges that participants were tasked with Tuomas Rajajärvi, head of the Helsinki City Planning Department said:

“Many waterfront projects are about enlivening harbor or industrial areas no longer in use. We are now planning the most valuable core of the capital – an area that is actively used by city residents and that hosts a busy cruise port. Today, a large part of the area is off limits to the public, and a lot of space is taken up by parking.”

Ideas from Diverse Sources

201 ideas that met competition criteria were submitted from all continents and 23 proposals were selected for public exhibition.

Among the selection criteria were:

• The suitability of the functions to the area’s character as well as for the city
residents and visitors
• The feasibility of the solution and the possibility of a staggered implementation
as well as the economic efficiency
• The strengthening of the area’s positive marine identity
• The quality, experiential character and functionality of the public urban spaces,
pedestrian spaces and street spaces in different seasons and times of the day

Four entries were awarded joint second place; no one proposal won the competition outright. Each of the submissions contained multiple ideas for the development of the harbor and among their salient features were:

Meren Syleily – a series of projects to rejuvenate the area including reclaiming some of the sea from the land

Stadi terassi - a multipurpose area for small scale, water-orientated attractions

Tori – includes a rearrangement of the marketplace

Boegbeeld – a repurposed area that includes a beach zone


Although the open innovation competition yielded numerous ideas that can be used in forthcoming years for the harbor's redevelopment, the jury was critical of many of the entries for “ignoring the spirit of the place and the environmental values all too often.” The harbor area required ideas that harmonize the old European port structure and environment with the new, not a wholesale redevelopment.

Successful Endeavor

Overall, the competition was deemed a great success with many innovative and usable ideas with regards to functions and urban structures that addressed the needs of different parts of the harbor.

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