Aalto University: The SUBURBAN PRIDE project examines the relationship between mental images of suburbs and the built environment

The multidisciplinary project combines history of architecture, sociology, and research in critical cultural heritage and landscape architecture. The purpose of the project, based on research and workshops, is to build a sustainable future for suburbs.

The objective of the Suburban Pride is to promote sustainable reconstruction of suburban environments by identifying their value factors for the residents and stakeholders. The project examines the mental images associated with the suburbs as well as the suburban architecture and landscape architecture as building blocks of suburban identities.

The project aims to produce data on the mental images and identities associated with suburban environments by examining their formation; by identifying current suburban discourses; by mapping different residential area identities and temporal changes, generational transitions and breaks in them; and by examining the significance of green areas and outdoor spaces in suburban environments for local residents through the case study of Matinkylä in Espoo.

The suburbs are the biggest single change factor in Finland’s history of urbanisation, and many of them have now reached the age of half a century. Originally, as a word and concept, “suburb” bore positive connotations. However, when efforts to get rid of the suburbs began as of the late 1960s, it began to gain negative meanings.

‘For example, in the early 1970s, Matinkylä was marketed as “a city”, not as a suburb, and today similar efforts are made to avoid the word when building new areas. This can be seen, for example, in the public debate about Kruunuvuorenranta. On the other hand, in the old suburbs, a new type of locational pride is raising its head, and hence we call our project, Suburban pride,’ says Panu Savolainen, Assistant Professor, History of Architecture an Architectural Conservation at Aalto University, who is leading the project.

Local community involved in the Matinkylä case study

The Matinkylä case study in Espoo involves local communities and examines, for example, the importance of facilities and the surrounding environment as providers of communality and well-being. In addition, research will be carried out on the cultural and urban ecological resources of landscape architecture and urban green, and methods will be created for participatory co-development and fostering of these resources in urban planning, by means such as applying the regional green factor method.

The results and impact of the project will be realised in the form of research articles, popularised opening of a dialogue and workshops aimed for the purposes of planning and for local communities.

Project is a part of the Suburban Programme

The two-year project launched in early 2021 will be implemented in a consortium between two universities. The project team includes Assistant Professor Panu Savolainen from the Department of Architecture of Aalto University, Postdoctoral Researcher Laura Berger, Postdoctoral Researcher Ira Verma, Professor Ranja Hautamäki and Director of Turku Urban Research Programme Sampo Ruoppila from the University of Turku. In addition, the project involves several project employees, and at the end of 2021, one more postdoctoral researcher will join the project.

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