Letter From Helsinki

Laituri, or “platform” in Finnish, is an exhibition center that opened in June in a former bus station in central Helsinki. The center is the latest outreach effort by Helsinki’s 270-person-strong city planning department. Designed by NRT Architects and off ering multimedia exhibits on local planning and development, Laituri received about 4,000 visitors in its first two months of operation.

Redefining the apartment building typology is an explicit goal of the city of Helsinki, since apartments account for 85 percent of all housing units there. And local architects are happy to oblige. ALA, a young firm of about 20 people, won a competition for a major new housing development with its proposal for elliptical blocks of uneven height enclosing large green spaces. Construction is expected to begin next year.

No detail too small: The lighting at Helsinki's new port area was decided by a design competition. APRT, a Finnish architecture firm, won with its scheme of neon-blue poles topped by bold Xs.

APRT also master-planned the billion-euro port, which opens in November.

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