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Erottajanaukio square will be given a facelift it deserves

Sito is in charge of designing a major renovation of Erottajanaukio. The square will be transformed into a new meeting place for city dwellers.

Sito was given the assignment of designing the renovation of Erottajanaukio, located at the very heart of Helsinki. The assignment includes the architectural design of the square, landscape architecture, street and construction planning, and municipal engineering planning. – Successful completion of our previous challenging projects has proven that we are worth the trust, Project Manager Paavo Åvist points out.

If people of Helsinki feel bewildered, when asked where such a place as Erottajanaukio might be located, they cannot be blamed for it. The current state and overall appearance of the square imply a kind of incompleteness. In its current disordered state, the square, used mainly as bus terminal, is easy to forget. It has been serving as a bus terminal, and a maintenance and supply route for a long time. The entrance ramp to Stockmann department store, removed from service in 2006, is also located there. Service traffic to the Swedish Theatre and a few restaurants also run through the square, and a construction container used as a break room for bus drivers is also found there.

Erottajanaukio would deserve better. The square has been classified as a built cultural environment of national interest. The current shape and place of the square has been discernible since the 19th century. The square is ideally located in the pedestrian area of the city center, at the crossing area of Mannerheimintie and Pohjoisesplanadi and Eteläesplanadi. Erottajanaukio is a significant structural pivoting point in the historical city center of Helsinki.

Design work underway

Luckily, the degradation of Erottajanaukio will soon be nothing more than a bad memory. The amendment of the city plan for the Erottaja area has been legally valid since 2014 and, finally, the design work for its renovation has been kicked off for real. This is anything but a simple assignment. First of all, in addition to building a safe and natural thoroughfare, the intention is to turn the square into a cozy and stylish environment that is an integral part of the city, lending itself easily to many kinds of small-scale happenings. A permanent kiosk will be built in the middle of the square. In the design of the square, account will be taken of the preservation and highlighting of the cultural-historical value of the area, and its potential restoration.

Paavo Åvist tells about the various underground projects related to the renovation. He explains how the designers need to find a sensible way of integrating, for example, the ventilation ducts of the joint access to the underground civil defense shelter and the power supply station to the kiosk, the only building to be located on the square. The criteria set for the architecture of the kiosk are high.

Naturally, Sito’s design assignment also includes the street and construction planning for organizing the traffic on the busy streets surrounding the square.

When the design concerns a city environment of national interest in the immediate vicinity of the historical center of the city, the work involves experts from various fields. The person responsible for the architectural design is Architect SAFA Jenni Lautso, and Aino Leskinen serves as landscape architect for the project. Landscape Architect, Master of Arts, Suvi Saastamoinen is responsible for lighting planning. An artwork by Swedish artist Eva Lange will also be placed on Erottajanaukio. – We work in close collaboration with city experts. We have about thirty contacts in the city organization, says Paavo Åvist, counting the contact persons. That alone tells about the magnitude of the project.

Originally, the intention was to have the facelift of Erottajanaukio completed by the Centenary of Finland’s Independence, but the project does not quite fit into that schedule. The plans will be completed by next year, but the actual construction will continue until 2018.

Text: Dakota Lavento