VERSATILE CENTER FOR A NEW MIKKELI

A focus on sustainable living through successful planning tools.

client:  Municipality of Mikkeli

date:  October 2012

program:  central area masterplan

type:  international competition

size:  XL / 93 ha

location:  Mikkeli, Finland

team:  Wolfhouse Productions

THE CHALLENGES

With a population of 50 000 of which more that 18% are 65+ of age, Mikkeli fights severe depopulation. The University of Applied Sciences has the largest number of students in the South Savonia, but after finishing studies students are forced to move to more attractive cities such as Lahti, Helsinki, Stockholm or even Russia. UAS is the largest single employer in the town, following the forestry industry and farming. This means that Mikkeli has the necessary knowledge and infrastructure for developing the city in a sustainable manner implying technology and practical skills. It only needs to create markets and conditions for implementing ecological solutions. Mikkeli has been planned from the 1980s as an eco-province running on renewable energy from the Pursiala power station which uses 100% domestic energy. Protecting the unique nature of Saimaa has become the top priority for the local government so they want to limit the effect of human activity on the environment which means that the value of property is rising sharply. 

A compact centre, rural surroundings and astonishing lake scenery presents excellent circumstances for living, working and leisure time in the proximity and influence sphere of Helsinki and St. Petersburg. In order to become the ‘Growth center for modern services on the shores of Lake Saimaa’ Mikkeli needs to create itself a new brand as a sustainable hub on the outskirts of the extensive open waters of Lake Saimaa and kick start the ecological development of the Saimaa shoreline.


STRATEGIC PRINCIPLES FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

Social action. Mixing social categories and increasing social participation to community life and common actions will enhance social cohesion.

Densify urban structure. Adaptive and flexible urban structures will make for a more efficient use of land.

Improve mobility. Enabling new forms of transport and circulation and setting up intermodal nodes will improve accessibility and urban mobility.

Sustainable building materials. Give priority to local resources such as wood and building traditions.

Bioclimatic urban design. Involving new ways of preserving and reducing energy consumption.

Use of modern technologies. Making use of new technlogies for the functioning and maintenance of public spaces and providing efficient use of urban services.


THE OBJECTIVE

Develop the four neighborhods as replicable projects based on principles and methods of intervention that could be used as guidance and models for other areas. The areas will be developed as to provide specificity and identity while also ensuring connectivity and integration along the lake shore and with the city center. The old harbour area will be a nodal point of the composition and a reference area for the city and region.



1. DENSE & DIVERSE CITY CENTER BY THE WATER

As the direct extension of Mikkeli city centre to the water the area has a mixed-use character, acting as a social hub including commercial, educational, cultural and residential activities.

Mixed building blocks create a lively route easily accessible by foot or bicycle. Residential areas play a significant role for the development of the harbour. Social sustainabilty is reached by discouraging car traffic, planning secure and comfortable pedestrian axes and bike connections and public spaces for the community.

The waterfront is reactivated and public life is brought back in the city.

THE SCIENCE CENTRE

The largest and most significant area of Mikkeli develops on the city’s waterfront as the central point of Mikkeli’s urban vision. The city of Mikkeli is planning to build a science centre in the harbour area with the mission to promote ecological design throughout South Savonia. The competition’s task is to freely conceptualise a visually appealing landmark intended for public without a more detailed brief regarding the use of space.

Mikkeli Science Centre is set out as both an attractor for tourists and research laboratory in sustainable living. The flagship project will host exhibitions destined to inform locals and tourist on the importance of sustainable living, and will work with finnish institutions such as educational (The University of Applied Sciences), community oriented (The Bio - Regeneration Research Centre based in the community involvement in ecological activities neighborhood) and city services  Pursiala powerplant).

View from the promenade towards the Science Centre.

2. PROTECTED NATURAL AREAS & BIO-CLIMATIC DESIGN

In an effort to increase protection of the bird sanctuary, business and service areas are offset to the east side. Building blocks are layed out with an emphasize on bio-climatic architecture and urban design. A good pedestrian route (folowing an abandoned railroad) connects the previous area with this one and extends further into the botanical garden to the south.

3. COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT IN ECOLOGICAL ACTIVITIES

Using the soil as a resource and drastically changing the place, the Bio - Research Centre focuses on phytoremediation technologies and research laboratory. Bioremediation facilities, coupled with urban farms, are accessible also to the community. The neighborhood could become (in time) a producer

instead of a taker.

4. 'LOW TO NO’ CARBON RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOOD

The new neighborhood cooperates with the natural habitat and sensibly blends in the landscape. Being a residential area, special attention has been payed to the various living typologies. Employing low-carbon materials and technologies, efficicent energy use and integrated waste recycling helps the community to achieve a low - and eventually - no carbon footprint.

ECOLOGICAL CONCEPT.
1. Involve (+ set regulations)
Key words: empower community, engage institutions (local
+ national), incentivise entrerprises, lead the way

2. Reduce (carbon footprint)
Key words: efficient use of resources, low carbon / carbon
depository building materials, prefabricated building,
smart energy consumption, centralised waste disposal, move
around by walking, cycling, taking the bus

3. Produce (food + energy)
Key words: community urban farming; photovoltaic / solar
heating panels; medium scale heat pumps; bio-mass, bio-gas

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