Four years of urban development

"Urban development has been a lot else besides planning", writes Karoliina Hartiala whose story continues as an entepreneuer.

I joined YIT’s recently established urban development team in the autumn 2016. At first, I thought I would primarily be drafting the development of suburbs and complementary construction. Of course, this is something I have done and the designs of Finland’s suburbs have become familiar to me.

However, urban development has been a lot else besides planning, too. The goals and opportunities of the projects are discussed extensively with the cities and professional construction industry operators as well as the shareholders of housing companies and residents of the areas being developed. This has challenged me to step outside my comfort zone as a designer to develop increasingly good ways of communicating and discussing equally with the different parties to the project.

I, too, used to think that a good plan speaks for itself and is both the primary and, in itself, a sufficient tool for launching development. However, focusing on the outcome is not enough. It is in the urban development team at the latest that I have noticed the words of the architect of a London urban reform project I interviewed once are still true: It’s about explaining what you’re doing. If you can’t explain with good reasons why you’re doing something, then you end up with a fight” (thanks to my colleague for the reminder!)

The more you operate in existing environments, the more the role of interaction is emphasised in projects. Good planning is still just as important, but it does not launch the process. Operating in existing environments is fundamentally about building cooperation and trust between the project parties. This does not happen at once.

Urban reform and complementary construction have been important themes for me for a long time, and therefore it is nice to see that things are really starting to happen in suburbs. Over four years, we have set several development projects in motion – for example, in the Itäkeskus district of Helsinki and the Hakunila district in Vantaa. The launch of these and other suburban development projects has required persevering hands-on work. Successful project development requires an orchestrator that has both expertise and patience. This role suits YIT well as the future contractor of the project.

My story will continue as I attempt to fly on my own as an entrepreneur. It is with some nostalgia that I thank YIT’s urban development team for the astonishing years, and I will continue to watch and see where things will be happening next. 

Urban development

Karoliina Hartiala
Urban Design Manager, Urban development (until 31.9.2020)