Why is the architectural competition being organised by invitation?
The competition is being organised by invitation because the task is clearly defined, as well as in order to also involve international operators. The project is significant, so it is important to ensure high-quality proposals. This goal is easier to achieve through a closed competition: in an open competition, participants cannot be required to have the same level of familiarity with the subject. Previous evidence of similar projects was required in the selection of competitors. The competitors have been selected through pre-qualification, so there will certainly be a very strong and internationally interesting set of offices involved in the competition.
Who are the organisers of the competition?
The competition is being organised by the development company for Eliel (Elielin Kehitys Ltd) together with the City of Helsinki. The fully Finnish development company for Eliel consists of the area’s property owners Ilmarinen, OP-Vuokratuotto, VR and SOK, Exilion Real Estate and Evata Partners, a company specialising in real estate development and investment.
How have the members of the jury been elected?
The members of the jury represent the organisers of the competition: Elielin Kehitys Ltd and the City of Helsinki. In addition, an expert member representing the Finnish Association of Landscape Architects as well as an international expert judge are involved to ensure a high-level outcome.
What starting points have been provided for the competition entries?
The competition programme has been drafted in cooperation with the organisers and the planner. Various relevant city authorities have been widely consulted in drafting the programme. The historical and urban significance of the area is emphasised in the programme. This includes, for example, the definition of certain cityscapes to be preserved and the connection of the competition area to the surrounding buildings. There have been several surveys of the area that are available to the competitors.
What criteria must the winning proposal meet?
The assessment will pay attention to how the design principles set out in the design programme have been taken into account. The aim of the competition is to find a design solution that includes sufficient land use efficiency, high-quality solutions for public streets and square spaces, and diverse functional content from office workplaces and retail to recreational services and meeting places while taking into account the area’s special features and starting points for the urban landscape.
The assessment criteria mentioned in the competition programme are:
Quality of urban space
- Taking into account the valuable characteristics of the area in the planning of new construction, in particular the valuable features of the urban structure as well as cultural and historical values
- Creating a distinctive, comfortable and pleasant public outdoor space in the area
- Linking Asema-aukio as part of the series of front squares for the main railway station
- Comprehensive architectural and landscape architectural solution
- Content, credibility and location of newly constructed functions as well as their relationship with the whole and to the existing urban structure
- Sufficiently sized public outdoor spaces to allow safe walking and staying
- Connection of aboveground and underground functions
- Relationship of brick-and-mortar commercial premises and their fronts to the existing environment
- Natural, accessible routes and smooth coordination of different modes of transport, especially pedestrian traffic
- Overall affordability and feasibility of the design solution, taking into account the complexity of setting up the construction site, construction costs and sufficient land use efficiency
- Principles of sustainable construction
- Functionality of maintenance and parking
The functionality, quality and development capacity of the comprehensive solution is considered to be more important than meeting the individual evaluation criteria.
About the project
What is ultimately being built in the area? Shopping centre, hotel, offices?
New construction in the area includes facilities for commercial, office, service and cultural activities. The first floors of new construction (at least the two lowest floors from the ground level) must be commercial space and facilities for cultural services, the upper floors can be office premises. No housing or long-term accommodation activities can be located in the area. Hotel activities as part of the whole are possible.
Why is more office space being added to the area? Is there demand for it in these times?
There is constant demand for high-quality office premises in the Helsinki city centre area. There have been no large-scale office space projects in the city centre in recent years, with the construction of business premises being mainly concentrated outside the downtown area. The Eliel area is a junction point for public transport and a very easily accessible, central location that is guaranteed to be in demand.
What functions will there be at street level?
The first floors of new construction (at least the two lowest floors from the ground level) must be commercial space and facilities for cultural services, the upper floors can be office premises.
What new things will the project bring for city residents?
The project is intended to supplement, harmonise and enliven the urban structure of the Elielinaukio and Asema-aukio area while taking into account its valuable environment. The area will become a lively and comfortable part of the central pedestrian zone as a part of part of a larger renewal of the surroundings of the Helsinki Central Railway Station. The project will significantly improve comfort, safety and connections of the busiest pedestrian environment in central Helsinki.
Are there not enough shopping centres in Helsinki already?
The impact of existing commercial premises will of course be carefully considered in the planning of the project, and it is not in anyone’s interest to build anything for which there is no need or demand in the area in question.
Construction on the site will be very expensive. Does the project make sense?
The parties involved in the project are top-notch real estate professionals, and they have commissioned a very thorough market analysis of the area. There is no reason to doubt that the project is economically sound.
Will public money be spent on the project?
The competition and the project are fully funded by Elielin Kehitys Ltd. The City of Helsinki is responsible for its own costs. The City of Helsinki will not incur any additional costs from the competition.
What will happen to the old, valuable buildings in the area?
The valuable buildings bordering the area are all protected and not included in the competition.
The assessment of the competition will pay particular attention to how the valuable urban environment has been taken into account and how the proposal connects to the existing building stock.
How will the architectural competition ensure that the building fits into the area’s current architecture?
The competition programme provides precise boundary conditions for new buildings. Specific protected landmark buildings mentioned include the Central Railway Station, Sokos and Postitalo, whose special characteristics must be taken into account in the design. The jury has very extensive expertise in architecture and the construction of the city of Helsinki.
Will the restaurant Vltava building be preserved?
The valuable features of the Vltava building are the original façades on the south and southwest sides. Efforts will be made to preserve the building if the design solution permits this, but at least its most valuable features will be preserved if the planning solution considers it possible.
How tall will the new buildings be?
The area is not a place for high-rise construction, but it has been defined in the master plan as center area with dense urban structure. The new buildings must be compatible with the existing buildings in the area in terms of height. In Elielinaukio, the line of the eaves on Postitalo must be taken into account in competition proposals. In Asema-aukio, the maximum height must be in balance with the height of the railway station’s eaves.
The project has been mentioned to improve the safety of city residents. How?
Rearranging the taxi traffic as well as simplifying the pedestrian and cycling routes and connections of Elielinaukio and Asema-aukio Squares will improve the safety of the area and make cycling and walking more pleasant. The aim of the architectural competition is to develop the area in such a way that the space will become a meeting place, where people enjoy spending time.
Dialogue and influence
Can the public influence the outcome?
The competition proposals will be presented on the neweliel.fi website shortly after the end of the competition period. A survey will be set up for comments from the public, asking for feedback on the entries and ideas for further improvement. The competition’s secretariat will submit the feedback received to the jury, and this feedback will also be used in the judging of the competition.
Will the winning result be automatically implemented as such?
The winning proposal serves as a starting point for the zoning of the area, but the proposal can be developed as the project progresses, taking into account, among other things, the ideas brought up in the public’s feedback. Therefore, the winning proposal may not be implemented as such, but it serves as a basis for the outcome.
How will the decision-making process proceed after the winner has been selected?
Once the competition is resolved, zoning work will begin in the area, after which the plan will be submitted to the City Council. Project planning for the site will continue throughout the zoning process, and implementation planning will be launched simultaneously with the preparation of the plan. The progress of the zoning work can be followed on the City of Helsinki’s website at kartta.hel.fi/suunnitelmat.
The future of the area
Will Elielinaukio be completely congested?
There will be more space on Elielinaukio as the traffic arrangements in the area change with the reform of the city centre’s transport system. Complementary construction and simpler routes will improve the usability and comfort of the area, especially from the point of view of pedestrians. The competition seeks a solution to develop the urban space without compromising its square-like character and the natural pedestrian routes are taken into account. The design principles of the architectural competition require the area to be mainly an open square and urban pedestrian zone. Asema-aukio must present itself as a square denoting the entry into the city also in the future.
How long will the construction work last?
The construction is likely to take place in stages as, for example, the area’s traffic arrangements change, and as the functionality of this central city area, the passage of pedestrian and bicycle traffic and the maintenance of the surrounding block need to be secured throughout the project. The construction schedule will be specified after the competition when the project to be implemented is known.
Will buses be moved away from Elielinaukio?
The decisions in this matter are made by HSL/City of Helsinki, and the architectural competition does not take a stand on the traffic arrangements as such. The starting point for the development of the area is that the current bus traffic on Elielinaukio can be relocated i.a. to the Kamppi terminal.
How are pedestrians taken into account?
The area surrounding the railway station is one of the key areas for development in Helsinki in terms of a pedestrian city centre, and the Asema-aukio and Elielinaukio comprise a large part of this. The aim of developing the pedestrian city centre is to ensure the vitality of the downtown area and to create a better setting for staying in the city centre, bustling urban life and city events, as well as to improve the safety and flow of pedestrian traffic.
How are cyclists taken into account?
The cycling network in the city centre is constantly being renewed and improved, and Elielinaukio is a very central and easily accessible location in terms of bicycle traffic as well. The cycling network around Elielinaukio will improve with a cycling tunnel under the railway and new bicycle parking spaces.
Where will taxis and pick-up traffic move to?
The taxi connection for the New Eliel as well as the pick-up and drop-off traffic will be organized in such a way that most of the traffic is moved to the basement level.
How will the project affect the Pisararata rail project?
With the new Pisaratata rail project, local train traffic will be directed underground in the downtown area. New underground train stations will be opened in Töölö, the city centre and in connection with the Hakaniemi metro station. Traffic on the Pisararata will start at the earliest in the 2030s. The construction decision has not yet been made, but the planning is very advanced and the City of Helsinki believes that the project will be implemented. This project does not have a direct separate impact on the progress of the railway project and the provisions required for the track will be taken into account in the design.
How will the project affect the Kruunuratikat tramway?
The terminal for the tramway connection from the city centre to Laajasalo (so-called Kruunuratikat), which will be completed in 2026, is planned in front of the railway station. The construction of the tramway project will start in 2021, and this project will not have a direct separate impact on the progress of the Kruunuratikat tramway. The provisions required for the line will be taken into account in the design.
How will traffic be organised in the new plan?
The role of the area surrounding the railway station as a hub for regional public transport will be further strengthened in the future. By as early as 2030, new light rail lines will run to the city centre via Kallio and Töölö from the north, in addition to Kruunuvuorenranta.
How are motoring and parking organised?
The traffic arrangements in the station area will change in accordance with the City of Helsinki’s traffic plan for the city centre. Private car use in the area will decrease, but the area will continue to be accessible by car in the future as well. Postikatu is to become pedestrian friendly. Traffic flows from Mannerheimintie to Kaivokatu as well as from Kaivokatu ja Mannerheimintie need to be considered and planned. In terms of car parking, in addition to Elielinaukio’s own parking facility, there are several parking facilities in the vicinity within walking distance, complementing Elielinaukio’s own parking offering.