Töölöntori Environmental Plan

The Töölöntori environmental plan is linked to the City Planning Department's attempt to change the traffic arrangements in the Töölöntori area of Helsinki, so that the roundabout, which was considered inconvenient and unsuitable for a dense urban environment, would be converted into a light-controlled T-junction. The aim of the future arrangement was to improve the pedestrian environment of Töölöntori and to link the tramway that passes the market more closely to the market area. The line 5, which previously had its end stop at the marketplace, had already been withdrawn from service.

To support the new traffic arrangements, the Urban Planning Department asked me to prepare an environmental plan for the market area, based on the new traffic arrangements, which would improve the functionality and quality of the market environment. The client was architect Bosse Österberg from the City Planning Department.

The plan was prepared at the master plan level and completed in early 1987. The plan was widely presented to the public and sparked a broad debate. The reception was mainly positive, but some architects labeled the plan as “bad design”. It illustrates well the attitudes of the time in Finland, where international developments in the field were not well known and, for example, the pedestrian street projects in other Nordic countries and Central Europe were generally considered to show bad taste.

The renovation of Töölöntori was on Helsinki's construction department's project list throughout the time I worked there (1991-2003). As there was no pressure to improve the area other than to improve the quality and functionality of the environment, the project had to be repeatedly postponed, as was the improvement of Kauppatori and Hietalahti market square. By 2015, no major changes had been made in the area and, while we wait, opinions on roundabouts in urban areas have also become more favourable.