Helsinki's eastern islands to be the subject of a design competition – chance to submit ideas for landing sites for Villinki and Vartiosaari, among others

The Europan 17 competition for young designers in Helsinki is targeting five islands in the eastern archipelago of the city. The competition is looking for a landing site concept that takes into account the specific characteristics of the islands and their natural values. The aim is to find ideas that can be applied to a wide range of sites to steer the recreational use of the unique archipelago in a sustainable direction.
One of the design sites of the competition was Malkasaari, located south of Meri-Rastila on Kallahdenselkä. Photo: 110th Street Productions / Helsingin kaupunki
One of the design sites in the competition is Malkasaari, located off Kallahti, south of Rastila. Photo: 110th Street Productions / Helsingin kaupunki

Every two years, the Europan architecture competition attracts thousands of architecture, landscape architecture and urban planning professionals under 40 years of age, from all over Europe. The aim of the competition and the Europan umbrella organisation is to help young designers get their ideas noticed internationally.

In total, more than 50 sites from all over Europe will be participating in the competition. The Finnish competition sites are located in Helsinki and Vaskiluoto in Vaasa. Competitors can submit their proposals for one or more of the sites. From the eastern archipelago of Helsinki, the competition sites are Kotiluoto, Malkasaari, Pikku Niinisaari, Vartiosaari and Villinki. Proposals for the Finnish sites will be judged by a national panel of judges.

The competition is looking for a concept for the development of landing sites that can be easily applied to all five. Competitors must develop a biodiversity-friendly, balanced and sustainable place to land on the island, within the framework of the competition programme and rules.

Aiming to guide leisure-seekers towards sustainable recreational use of the archipelago

Helsinki has over 160 km of coastline and hundreds of islands and islets off the city. An archipelago in the immediate vicinity of a capital city is a rarity even worldwide, making it a unique and inspiring design target.

The aim is to develop a coherent and recognisable look for the structures and buildings of the landing sites, in keeping with the archipelago, and to find new ways to support the overall recreational use of the islands, says Sofia Kangas, landscape architect at the Helsinki Urban Environment Division.

– The competition will look at how architecture and other design techniques can be used to encourage and guide city residents and tourists to explore the islands in a sustainable way." Kangas stresses.

Taking account of the specific characteristics of islands

In addition to piers, there will also be camping facilities around the landing sites, such as cooking shelters, toilets, kiosks, saunas and various hiking trails. The designers' entries must take into account the cultural and historical values of the islands and their diverse and fragile natural environment.

In addition to the special features, island-specific objectives must also be taken into account. For example, proposals are being sought for Vartiosaari, which can be expanded in the future if necessary as recreational use of the island increases. On Malkasaari, emphasis must be placed on the accessibility of routes and the suitability of services for different user groups. On Villinki, the recreational camping area consists of several landing sites of different sizes and located all over the island. Pikku Niinisaari is dominated by the natural values of the island, while Kotiluoto is close to a villa and garden of cultural and historical value.

– Despite their small surface area, landing sites are key recreational sites on the islands. This is why this competition will look at them from a variety of perspectives and at different scales, architect Sofia Kangas explains.

In Finland, the competition is being coordinated by Europan Suomi Finland. The launch event will take place on Tuesday 4 April at 9–10 at Sonck Hall, Sofiankatu 4, Helsinki. Representatives of the competition sites will be present.

The competition opened on Monday 27 March 2023 and proposals must be submitted by 30 July 2023. The winner will be announced in December 2023. The city then aims to continue developing the idea towards implementation together with the winners of the competition.