Sunday, 16 October 2016

Montreal Underground – Between

Montreal is famous for its underground city, the RESO. It is a vast network of interconnected malls, hotels, and metro stations. We all know, how malls, hotels, and metro stations look like. Even though they might have different appearances, different architecture that might be dull or exciting, eccentric or functional, we know the basic concept. But what kind of concept is the connector between these spaces? It is somehow public space, but it is not made for social interaction, nor for shopping, nor strolling. There is no view (though there is sometimes advertisement or some artwork at the walls). It is not like a street that is connected with other streets and that has buildings, industry, parking lots, or gardens on either side. It’s not a place to hide either, there are enough cameras around. It is not like any other tunnel: When you get out, you are still inside. You are not in a car or train wagon that puts a buffer between you and the tunnel. It is a space deprived from everything that makes a space, except that one function to let you walk from A to B. It is one pure, undistracted, unfiltered, very concise A to B. It is Between – nothing else.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

A Cloud in Helsinki

CLOUD by Caitlind R.C. Brown and Wayne Garret

Finally some snow and a cloud that puts a smile on people's faces. A good start to 2016?

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Car-Free Day 2015, Helsinki

Helsinki's oldest pedestrian street at the car-free day 2015

Friday, 23 January 2015

Four Services That Make Cycling Less Adventurous, One Service That Makes You Ride (And One Pretender)

When I bike I like it mostly simple: one gear, proper lights, mudguards, no device that would tell me speed, heart-rate, cadence, burned calories, position ….
On the other hand,there are some electronic services I'm really happy about:
  1. The rain-radar. There are these days, when you have no clue how the weather will be in the next ten minutes. The rain-radar helps to catch a slot with a good chance for a dry ride home. If the clouds come fast you have to pedal a little bit harder.
  2. The cycling route planner. There are of course many options: Google or open source and community driven, but in Helsinki I can rely on the services of the regional transportation agency. As long as I can't trust in a logically built cycling path network, it's good to check in advance the best choice according to my preferences (the shortest, mostly paved or preferably separate cycling paths).
  3. This leads directly to two other electronic helpers that could be obsolete, if there would be a wider agreement that the bicycle is a means of transport (and not only a toy for a stroll on a sunny day).
    Screenshot of the strava heat map
  4.  The strava heat map. Here I can benefit from the thousands of kilometre ridden and tracked by other cyclists. The following screen-shot shows nicely: if you would be forced to do these type of awkward detours, you rather look for a different route.
  5. The snowplow information. This is actually a feature of the route planner. Here I can check, which route the snowplow took after the latest pinch of snow. Ok, this data is not totally reliable, but it is a good start.
  6.  The kilometre challenge (kilometrikisa). Here, small informal teams (colleagues, friends, families) compete for the most ridden kilometres. There's a summer and a winter edition of the competition. It's all not that serious, but a little bit of competition can make me ride the extra-kilometre, when the bus, tram or taxi (or any other motorized vehicle) or the cosy sofa at home are just too tempting.
Screenshot of the cycling route planner showing the paths that were maintained in the last 24 hours

… and then there are these little electronic “helpers” that I would count as an attempt to ridicule cyclists.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Pop-up Stairs

In Helsinki even the biggest construction companies are in for some surprising urban interventions; for example moving the stairs for pedestrians from one side of a bridge to the other. The temporary stairs are non-invasive, since they don't destroy the existing infrastructure. In order to get off (or onto) the bridge you have to climb over the railing. This little climb lifts you over the level of the cars. It might give you a (very) small shiver, when step over the edge on the scaffolding. And also I could not avoid spending a thought on, why people otherwise climb purposefully over a bridge's railing. The stairs also challenge your navigation skills and your daily routines (if you are used to the stairs across, four traffic-lines away).

Sunday, 9 June 2013

New Way of Greening Urban Space

When you live in the city, leaving your car untouched in favour of biking or walking has a lot of beneficial effects: It's good for the environment, it reduces congestion, it's supposed to be good for your health, and you spend less on gasoline. All in all it makes city life for you and your fellow citizens a little bit more pleasant.
However, lately I spotted in Helsinki a slightly unconventional way, how a parked car can improve the city. Around the off-road machine on the picture emerged in spring a small island of untouched green between the cobblestones. It took me some thinking to figure out, what caused the stimulating climate around the car: The machine wasn't moved for the better part of spring here. While everywhere else rolling cars smashed every little sprout that emerged between the cobblestones, there was a small sanctuary around this vehicle.
Considering all the cobblestones and all the parked cars on Helsinki's peninsula.... that could easily add some square metres to Helsinki's 75 square km of green area.