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CIRCuIT hackathons find transformation ideas for obsolete buildings in the Helsinki region

CIRCuIT Helsinki region partners brought stakeholders together through a series of hackathons to find alternative uses and transformation ideas for obsolete buildings in Helsinki and Vantaa.

CIRCuIT partners City of Vantaa and Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (HSY) organised three short hackathon workshops in March 2023. The aim was to find alternative uses and transformation ideas for obsolete office space at the HSY water tower in Helsinki, and for two City of Vantaa buildings currently used as a children's healthcare centre and an adult education centre in Vantaa. Making use of existing buildings and saving them from demolition reduces the need for new construction and therefore saves natural resources. It also helps to protect the cultural values embedded in existing buildings.

The hackathon workshops gathered together dozens of interested city officials and other stakeholders from various public and private sector organisations. Each workshop began with a presentation by a representative of the building owner, outlining the background, the building's defining features and the owner's wishes for its development. All three spaces posed their own challenges for the participants to consider. None of the buildings can be turned into dwellings without changes to zoning and considerable transformations. All of the buildings were seen to have potential uses in public sector and communal purposes.

1. HSY water tower

The HSY water tower - currently in operation - has three storeys of office space under its water reservoir. The space does not receive a lot of daylight towards the centre of the building due to the depth of the building. Nevertheless, the hackathon participants came up with numerous innovative ideas to transform the unused space. These included cultural and communal spaces, educational and health care facilities, commercial space, entertainment and exercise centres. It was recognized that an important factor for this building would be ensuring the security of the water reservoir in all future uses.

"Let's not fill the space, but people's and society's needs."

HSY water tower hackathon workshop participant

2. Children's healthcare centre, Tikkurila - city of Vantaa

The City of Vantaa children's healthcare centre in Tikkurila is a compact and aesthetically pleasing 1950's building in a central location. The healthcare centre operations are moving elsewhere in the coming years. The building cannot be expanded and does not have elevator access to all levels. The hackathon participants came up with dozens of potential ideas around new uses for the building. Two ideas were chosen for further development: a commercial start-up centre and a communal living room for local citizens. The start-up centre could combine wellness services, event spaces, a bed and breakfast, and a restaurant utilizing local food waste. The communal living room would highlight opportunities for social, multicultural and multigenerational encounters and would provide varied meeting spaces inside the building as well as in the charming garden.

3. Adult education centre, Tikkurila - city of Vantaa

The City of Vantaa adult education centre is a 1960's school building complex in a central location of Tikkurila area. It is currently in active use as an adult education centre, but these operations are moving elsewhere in the coming years. Parts of the building have long, rather narrow corridors that receive a lot of daylight. There is also a gymnasium and specialty classrooms designed for woodwork and other crafts. Two of the various transformation ideas that were seen as having the most potential were developed and evaluated by the hackathon participants using SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). The participants also created initial marketing slogans for both concepts. The first idea was a centre for start-ups and food related businesses called Tikkurila Bazaar, the slogan being "Experience the world's tastes and scents at the Tikkurila Bazaar!” The other idea was a communal meeting place and cultural centre with lush interior and exterior spaces called Tikkurila Oasis, the slogan being "The Tikkurila Oasis - enjoy yourself fully!"

Looking ahead...

All three spaces posed their own challenges for the participants to consider. Nevertheless, the hackathons generated dozens of inspiring ideas for the building owners to consider as they move forward with their plans for future use. Many ideas were developed further in the workshops by considerations of practical applications. The organizing partners were pleased with the active participation and useful outcome of the workshops.

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