Isonpellontie residential block is close to a riverfront park, between the busiest road in Finland (Ring I) and the river Vantaanjoki. The project started after a win in an invitational social housing architecture competition in 2015. The site posed the biggest challenge: the area is close to a flooding river in a cultural landscape with an unstable ground. The careful co-operation between architects and landscape architects, the buildings were placed along the existing road to optimize the land use. The project has 153 right-of-occupancy and rental apartments owned by HASO (right-of-occupancy housing company of City of Helsinki) and Heka (housing company of City of Helsinki).

The placement of the building and parking spaces along the existing road not only allowed to preserve the river landscape characteristics and the riverside vegetation, an important bird and bat habitat, but also maintained the waterfront area for public recreational use. This also allowed land filling and stabilisation to be kept to a minimum, optimising the plot area. At the same time, the buildings have views to the lush park and river landscape from all dwellings. Out of the four proposals, Nikamat” (eng. “Vertebrae”) preserved most of the existing vegetation and reduced the need for new impermeable surfaces.

The site sits in the cultural river landscape of national importance. The buildings form a backbone for the landscape, where the name of the proposal came from. The design not only protects the apartments but also the riverfront park from traffic and environmental nuisances. The buildings fit in the landscape perfectly and they follow the contours of the terrain. The retained trees will soften the impact of the development on the cultural landscape.

The choice of vegetation around the buildings is aimed at creating a feeling of a small flowering home garden. The river-facing courtyard area has permeable surfacing materials and no wells as the stormwater is removed by surface flow. The clearly defined courtyard is connected by a landslide the park. The communal seating areas along the path extend into the natural area in the form of a quay. Once every 200 years the highest flooding of Vantaanjoki river reaches the path and the landslide creates a shoreline.

Isonpellontie projects is a statement and an example of quality social housing and respecting the old cultural landscape. All the apartments of the buildings open in at least two directions and open views to the park and the river. The landscape design of the area focused on creating an inviting environment and preserving the naturally and culturally valuable nature while creating affordable housing by sustainable design.

Architecture offices involved in the design: B&M Architects Ltd

Location: Isonpellontie 4-6, Helsinki, Finland (60.241017, 24.978130)

Design year: 2015-2019

Year Completed: 2019

Photography: Pyry Kantonen Photography


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