Waterfront redevelopment of former industrial or logistic areas has emerged as a major driver of urban expansion in cities all over the developed world in the last 20 years. In many ways, they provided a well-needed boost to urban development after the backlash of the large-scale social engineering schemes of the post-war era and subsequent suburban and new-town sprawl of the 70’s - 90’s in Europe. The type and scale of areas vary between global cargo ports to individual industrial buildings which are given new functions and social status. This development often makes up the main plot in a story of how a city transforms itself - and its identity - from site of industrial production to one of knowledge production. Soft values take over the rough, large-scale multifunctional spaces and in this meeting a new mentality is born - one of openness and innovation. INTEGRATION
The success of these new areas is based on their ability to become integrated neighborhoods, with the emphasis on providing high-quality public spaces for the local residents as well as visitors. The city of Mikkeli is now aiming to enter a new phase of development in its transition from military settlement via industrial and administrative city into a forward-thinking regional centre for sustainable development, and thus we aim to provide a dynamic and multifaceted variation of the current paradigm. Typically, a landmark building provide the new identity and anchorpoint for the new districts. Very often they become symbolic structures, boasting with novel expression but without ability to directly engage with the new neighborhood. For Mikkeli, we propose not only to build a landmark building, but a complete integrated campus of research into sustainable technology. The science centre is educational museum building with research facilities, coupled to a large eco-lab and a green technology business incubator hub. The new campus would become an important node in the international network of sustainable development research.
In addition to the planned science centre, we propose to place a cultural building in the centre of the new Satamalahti district. Acting as an attractor for the city’s entire population, the cultural centre will provide considerable synergy-effects: Expansion of public activities, long-term investment into infrastructure and giving the city a new meeting place. It also becomes a natural joint in the new link between from the existing centre of Mikkeli to the new Satamalahti area. A seamless connection with potential to increase the density of the existing Mikkeli urban centre and to provide the city with new sustainable workplaces within new professional fields.
The design of the biggest competition area, the new entryway to lake Savilahti, is guided by a number of social and architectural principles:
- A cultural centre with library, auditorium and exhibition spaces, providing the city with a new natural meeting place by the waterfront.
- A large event plaza in the heart of the Mikkeli harbour with possibilities for the city to come together with tourists and visitors around concerts, markets and other events.
- A new pedestrian and bridge which links the new public facilities and harbour directly with the current central square of Mikkeli.
- Public courtyards and pathways connect the residential quarters and give a varied and dramatized experience of the new area.
HYBRID BLOCKS The design of the hybrid block typology is derived from an intention to continue the current grid-formed plan structure of Mikkeli inner city. By extending the grid but allowing a degree of deformation as it meets the lake, the hybrid blocks emerged out of a series of inputs:
- Analysis of the wind conditions on the site suggesting a slab structure perpendicular to the shoreline.
- The south-facing slabs also provide and solar optimisation
- Coupled with a need for variation of the spatial experience and lakeview apartments, the slabs are connected with lower slabs, forming a closed block structure which also provide commercial spaces on the ground floors.
- The lower slabs are shifted vertically in section to optimize views and differentiate the block structure
SERVICE BLOCKS The service blocks between the railway tracks and the Satalamahti spine street access road through the serve several important functions in the new area:
- Acting as sound barrier, sheltering the residential neighborhood from the noise of passing trains.
- Providing parking to the entire area through multi-level parking garages.
- Housing commercial activities and services in the ground floor.
- The roofs are covered with green plants which reduce storm water runoff
BUSINESS WEDGE In the North end of the site is an area dedicated to business and services, connecting to the business complex across the railway. The location provides high visibility from the trains and the high buildings do not disturb the residential quarters.
DIFFERENCE AND VARIATION
We are inspired and informed by the great physical presence in the South Saavo waterways and lake Saimaa. Complex networks of freshwater lakes, rolling hills and dense forests provide a unique environment in which any architecture must be subordinate. Also the centre of Mikkeli and its composite characteristic within the framework of a simple grid has been a driving force in the development. The four construction areas around lake Savilahti have each been given their distinct spatial character and identity. Every scheme adapt to the existing condition of each site and its surroundings, incorporating concepts of how to build in natural surroundings in a socially, economically and ecologically sustainable way.
The Eastern site consists of three to five storey family houses clustered in groups. Together the groups form small common spaces that create delicate clearings in the dense birch forest. Each building is divided vertically into two residential units and the groups share a central open courtyard bounded by an edge made by a material different for each group. As a pendant to the community, a number of sauna huts hover over the water out in the lake west of the site. The saunas can be reached by boat or by foot over the ice in the winter time and challenge both tourists and the inhabitants of Mikkeli to go and visit them on daytrips. The ideal of a living in the forest, with all its charm and characteristics, is here realised with high density in a poetic way.
FIELDSIDE COMMUNITY With its proximity and view over the rectory and agricultural areas, the Southeastern district provides an ideal basis for a high-quality integrated residential living quarter with business, services. The driving strategy for the design is to give a clear orientation to the buildings, facing the lake and at the same time sheltering from noise of the motorway and winds rolling across the site from the West. Closest to the railway there is a row of apartment building varying from three to six storeys. The second row is a lower line two to four storey row houses, maximising sun exposure and views for the apartments. The long, winding buildings follow the landscape and orient themselves towards the water. The in-between space become shared spaces with allotment plots, allowing the residents to engage in horticulture and growing their own food. Despite the relative high density, the buildings find themselves in a dialogue with their natural surroundings.
Dividing the site in two is a recreational field where the old pond used to be. The grand space of the pond will be kept, acting as a framing device for wellness activities: Football, Ice hockey, basketball, tennis....A new marina provides the waterlink over to the Savilahti side On the West part of the site, three office buildings are positioned close to the connecting roads and pathways, with landmark visibility from the highway.
As a part of a long-term strategy, we propose that the southwest site along the railroad be occupied by an expansion of Mikkeli School of Applied Sciences, forming a cluster together with related businesses. The plan for the campus area is made up of rounded buildings of high density which come into dialogue with the existing roundhouse. A tall office building in the North, providing spaces for small and medium-sized green technology businesses. A large 6-storey educational building and student housing are grouped together to create an intimate public space. The existing roundhouse could become a student activity centre.
The extended Greenhouse Campus includes the Science Center, the Eco Lab, Research and teaching facilities as well as offices and housing for students and faculty. By linking them together, and subsequently also with the new residential district and Mikkeli city centre, the campus becomes an integrated area as well as an independent programmatic entity that can provide new synergies.