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Cities in southern Finland see high-rise building boom

Plans to erect a multitude of high-rise buildings are in the works in the southern cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Tampere. Although they might be considered tall by Finnish standards, none of the slated towers has more than 40 floors, the current international standard for skyscrapers.

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Niittyhuippu in Espoo is currently Finland's tallest building. Image: Kari Ahotupa / Yle

Finland is moving up these days – in the economy and the construction industry. Buildings are creeping up in height in southern cities with high population densities in an effort to use prime locations efficiently. The Finnish Society of Building Inspectors (RTY) says taller building are in the works throughout the country, but only the capital city region and Tampere have plans to build beyond 20 storeys.

"High-rise construction is focused on the big cities, where they hope to condense the community structure. This creates the impetus to expand upwards," says RTY's chair, Pekka Seppälä.

Among the various projects that are underway are the 21-storey Luminary building in Tampere, a 35-storey high-rise named Majakka (Lighthouse) in Helsinki's Kalasatama district, and an entire block of tall buildings that has been designed for the Helsinki districts of Vuosaari and Central Pasila, for example.

Pasila district to feature several towers

Construction bidding is still underway for the new built-up area slated for Pasila, but project team leader, architect Dan Mollgren from the Helsinki urban environment department says that several of the buildings near the new Pasila train station will be at least 15 floors high. The rest of the area will be filled in with buildings between eight and ten storeys, he says.

The Vuosaari district's block of high-rises will feature one building that is 31 storeys high. Another development surge is in the works for the Arabiaranta district of Helsinki, where the tallest building will be capped at 22 storeys.

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Image: Laura Koivunen / Yle Uutisgrafiikka

Ceiling for Helsinki city centre

While high-rises may become an increasingly familiar sight in outlying districts of the capital city, the city administration of Helsinki has safeguarded the cityscape of the downtown area by placing restrictions on the construction of tall buildings in the city centre.

"We've come to an understanding in Helsinki that the silhouette of the old city centre must be preserved," says Helsinki's city planning officer, Marja Piimies.

Building high-rises in Finland is still prohibitively expensive, too, says Piimies. They are much more expensive to build than traditional housing blocks, as they require more advanced building technology and must meet stricter safety standards. Among other things, the exit routes must be designed in a different way.

"It's still not economical feasible to build them very far from the city centre," she says.

No problem finding buyers

But one thing is certain: potential residents are interested. SRV's Antero Nuutinen says that only 30 of the over 280 units in the Majakka high-rise -- scheduled to be completed in 2019 -- are still available. The price per square meter for a home located on the top floors of the building has been somewhere between 11,000 and 16,500 euros.

Henna Helander of the Finnish Association of Architects says the high-rise trend will likely continue.

"Buildings that can been seen from far away, like high-rises, convey a variety of loaded messages.  Before the war, these landmarks were public buildings or churches or the Olympic tower. Together they created the city's identity. Then, in the 1970s, there was a surge of taller office buildings. Now, post-2000, it has been tower blocks for housing," Helander says.

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