Ideas for strengthening the vitality of Helsinki's city center are being sought through a student competition that was launched today. One of this year's experiments has been the expansion of the Esplanadi pedestrian area. Image: Teina Ryynänen


The city of Helsinki, in collaboration with Aalto University, the University of Helsinki, and the Helsinki Chamber of Commerce, has officially launched a student competition aimed at enhancing the vitality of Helsinki's downtown core. The competition, titled "Ytimessä – Rethinking the Heart of Helsinki," is set to encourage innovative proposals aligned with Helsinki's strategic goals for downtown development.

Mayor Juhana Vartiainen expressed his enthusiasm for the initiative, stating, "We must boldly develop our city center and its prospects for success. A pleasant and thriving downtown will continue to be Helsinki's strength and a key attraction. I am proud of this competition, which combines a culture of experimentation with creativity and encourages students to envision the future without constraints. The city plays a facilitating role."

The competition's focus area encompasses Helsinki's downtown core, with a particular emphasis on the area within a one-kilometer radius from the central railway station. However, the boundaries are not rigid, allowing participants to propose ideas that extend beyond this delineation. The designated competition area includes the central downtown blocks between the railway station and Esplanadi Park, Senate Square and its surroundings, Kaisaniemi, Kamppi, and the Töölönlahti area.

The student competition officially commenced on September 13, 2023, and submissions must be received no later than January 16, 2024. Participants are encouraged to approach the downtown core with an open mind and to present creative solutions to address its key challenges. A bold approach and a willingness to foster dialogue are highly encouraged.

Eligible participants are university students in either bachelor's or master's programs, as well as students from universities of applied sciences. The submitting team can consist of a single student or a group of multiple students, without any predefined group size restrictions. Participants are encouraged to form diverse teams that transcend academic disciplines and institutional boundaries.

The primary objective of the competition is to analyze the vitality and appeal of Helsinki's downtown core and propose measures to increase visitor numbers and time spent in the area.

The competition will award a total of €25,000 in prizes to the most promising ideas. The first-place prize is €15,000, the second-place prize is €6,000, and the third-place prize is €4,000.

The judging panel for the competition will be chaired by Helsinki's Mayor, Juhana Vartiainen. This diverse group of experts will evaluate the submissions and select the winning proposals that best contribute to reimagining the heart of Helsinki.