Gentrification and the Welfare City

Helsinki Summer School 2020 was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kindly note that Helsinki Summer School 2021 will not be arranged due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


The course is designed for Master’s degree students interested in urbanisation and with a background in urban studies, social sciences, sociology, geography, cultural studies, architecture, urban planning, environmental studies, politics, and economics.


This Helsinki Summer School course explores urbanisation from the point of view of the Nordic ‘welfare city’. A welfare city, such as Helsinki, is built on ideals of equality, the well-being of its citizens, a sustainable balance between the needs of both nature and the people, and responds to social and ecological awareness alike.

A process affecting the welfare city at the moment is gentrification. From hipster bars to rent increases, gentrification is a common and visible process of contemporary metropolitan restructuring, familiar from cities around the world. Often its real meaning and what the process really entails remain invisible. Brought on by uneven investments, gentrification sees capital take over and transform homes and neighbourhoods of low-income people and is a cause of displacement and urban inequality – a process poorly suited to the ethos of the welfare city.

The course uses lectures, workshops and excursions in Helsinki to help the students understand contemporary problems and issues related to gentrification in the Nordic welfare city.


The course is organised and led by Dr Giacomo Bottà, Docent (Adjunct Professor) in Urban Studies at the University of Helsinki. Other lecturers include leading Finnish urban studies scholars, international guests, activists, experts and municipal officers. The course also features leading international researchers of the field, and experts from Finnish think tanks, municipalities and other institutions.


  • Understand the relation between welfare and urbanisation in the Finnish, Nordic and global context.
  • Recognise the main features of a welfare city.
  • Familiarity with theory and concepts of gentrification.
  • Recognise the effects of gentrification on the city.
  • Acquire a critical understanding of contemporary urbanisation under capitalism.


The course consists of lectures, workshops and excursions by leading Finnish scholars, international guests, activists, experts and municipal officers. Before and during the course, the students will engage in individual and group work. The interactive learning method is based on an interdisciplinary understanding of urban studies. The students are encouraged to participate actively in the development of case studies and hands-on on-site research activities in the Helsinki region.


The course consists of
1) two assignments to be completed before the beginning of the course;
2) in-course assignments including workshops, group work, lecture diaries, active participation in class; and
3) final assignments: writing the final essay, and a final group presentation.


City Centre Campus

The teaching period is 12 days (5–20 August). The days will be divided into a morning and an afternoon session with lectures, workshops, excursions and activities lasting about 90 minutes each. Time will also be slotted for group and individual work, especially during the final week of the course. The last day will feature group presentations.

Preliminary Course Schedule

Mon 3 Aug
Registration begins

Tue 4 Aug
Registration continues
University’s Welcome Reception & Opening Party

Wed 5 Aug
Introduction to the course and its history (Giacomo Bottà, University of Helsinki)
Introduction  to USP MA and the other MA programmes at the University of Helsinki
Feedback from Pre-course assignments, instructions for the course and getting to know each other

Thu 6 Aug
Lecture TBA
Group formation and first round of group work
First assignment

Fri 7 Aug
Let’s talk about methods… (Giacomo Bottà)
Last infos about weekend/second week assignments

Mon 10 Aug
Seminar based on weekend assignment

Tue 11 Aug
Lecture TBA
Seminar based on readings

Wed 12 Aug
Lecture TBA
Individual work + tutoring

Thu 13 Aug
Lecture TBA
Individual work + tutoring

Fri 14 Aug
Lecture TBA

Mon 17 Aug
Workshop TBA
Group/individual work

Tue 18 Aug
Lecture TBA
Group/individual work
Tutoring with Giacomo

Wed 19 Aug
Group/individual work
Tutoring with Giacomo

Thu 20 Aug
Final group presentation
Feedback writing


Course readings will be distributed electronically to the students before the course. The readings will introduce students to the subjects and authors to be dealt with in lectures. Some workshops will take the form of a reading circle.