for Helsinki City
Planning Department

Hernesaaren Merikorttelit

The plan draft for a large site on the western shore of Hernesaari in Southern Helsinki was designed during an internship at Helsinki City Planning Department in 2014. The site consists of two plots for new development and an annex for the historical Ford building, a car assembly building from the 1940s. Topographically the site is neutral, as the shoreline is a result of backfill on former seabed around a small group of rocky islands. In terms of urban and natural landscapes, however, the site is extraordinary: long panoramas to the archipelago vis-à-vis the urban quality of Merisatamanranta and Länsisatama.

Increasing passenger volumes at Hernesaari cruise harbour and at West Harbour reframe Hernesaari development as an important gateway to Helsinki. For cruise passengers, the site in question offers the first impression of the city, while for those returning home the cityscape is a gesture of welcoming back.

The industrial past of Hernesaari, visible today in the converted Ford building and the grain silos, will remain as part of the future development. The old industrial shoreline of Helsinki is in the process of disappearing, leaving its traces in the new neighborhoods currently under development; Jätkäsaari and Kalasatama. In Hernesaari, the combination of the architectural urban context, future inhabitants, and the shipyards and harbour is a complex framework. The cruise harbour and the enormous ships visiting in Summer months will remain a memorable part of Hernesaari brand, landscape and experience.

As Jätkäsaari neighborhood and the new passenger terminal are completed on the opposite shore, they provide the site with a uniquely dynamic urban facade. Additionally, the seasonality of cruise shipping and the marina of NJK in Hernesaari create seasonal variation to the perception and activity of the shoreline on their own part.

These factors form an essential framework to the proposal. The aim is to create interesting interfaces between public and private, restricted and accessible, small and large scale. Noise and the closed-off character of the harbour area as well as the strong sea winds, place special demands on the planning. These opportunities to react spatially and programmatically to challenges of the site have been used to formulate the plan for future Hernesaari. A lively street level is a necessity in urban surroundings, and the apartments facing the main street Laivakatu (and thus the site) require sensitivity from the building volumes and facades of the future development. The aim has been to design a plan expressing an original character, taking advantage of the extraordinarily large scale, while simultaneously stimulating people to walk and experience the area by designing a spatially diverse plan. Programmatic factors, like a sports and fitness center as presented in the plan, require large building volumes that rarely come by in a dense urban fabric unless they are planned on purpose.

The maritime site creates variance to the dense scale of central Helsinki, and the diverse building program proposed further aims at addressing different user groups and demographics by offering places of connection and interaction, of residents and visitors, and of maritime nature and the urban city.

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Process model

Urban context and site characteristics

Plan visualization

Plan diagram

Level +6.0.


Heini-Emilia Saari

Tel. +358 40 533 9454
heini.saari (a) gmail.com