Research, projects and publications

Coursework and Master's theses in the Master's Programme in Urban Studies and Planning (USP) benefit from the research expertise within the University of Helsinki and Aalto University. Explore some of the projects and publications our students have worked with during their studies.
Master's Theses

Master's theses from the University of Helsinki and Aalto University are saved in university online libraries. Below are links to the published theses of the graduates of the USP Master's Programme.

University of Helsinki







Aalto University





USP Pub­lic­a­tion 1

This book is the first product of the Master’s Programme in Urban Studies and Planning that started in autumn 2017 as a joint programme of the University of Helsinki and Aalto University. The theme of the first studio course was “Confusing Suburban Identities.” It followed the main goal of the programme – an attempt to combine the perspectives of both research and planning.

The book takes the reader to the themes studied in the first Urban Challenge Studio 1 course. It combines the students work to commentaries by professors and teachers across a multitude of disciplines, thus provides a stimulating and interesting commentary on urban identities. The book is a result of an incredible amount of work by the USP community, which we are very proud of. You can download the book through the links below.

USP Studio Publication 1
Confused Suburban Identities : A Case Study of Helsinki Region

Editors: Anssi Joutsiniemi, Hannu Linkola, Mia Puttonen, Kristin Swan, Mari Vaattovaara
Publisher: Urban Studies and Planning / Master’s Programme of Urban Academy in Helsinki
Layout design: Natalia Vladykina

ISSN 2489-8007 (print)
ISBN 978-951-51-4193-4 (print)
ISBN 978-951-51-4194-1 (PDF)

Painotalo Plus Digital Oy
Lahti 2018

USP Publication 2

This book is the second in the publication series of the Master's Programme in Urban Studies and Planning. It includes 28 articles by our students that were the result of their work for the Urban Challenge Studio course in Autumn 2018. In addition, the book includes four articles with the insights of a few of our teachers.

The theme of the studio course was "Transurbanism" and the context was Haaga. Located only 7 km north of Helsinki CBD, Haaga had until 1946 its own borough rights while nowadays it is part of Helsinki's suburban fringe. It is safe to say that like many other neighbourhoods, Haaga too has undergone societal and administrative transformations that have blurred its genius loci. Through their multidisciplinary backgrounds, our students, analyzed the past and present of, and imagined possible futures for, Haaga. 

USP Studio Publication 2
Exploring the Transurban Axis - the Case of Haaga in Helsinki

Editors: Michail Galanakis, Fanny T. Hatunpää, Anssi Joutsiniemi
Publisher: Master’s Programme in Urban Studies and Planning
English language editors: Paul J. Cottier, Mark H. J. Shackleton
Layout design: Natalia Vladykina

ISSN 2489-8007 (print)
ISBN 978-951-51-5478-1 (paperback)
ISBN 978-951-51-5479-8 (PDF)

Painotalo Plus Digital Oy
Lahti 2019

USP Publication 3

This book is the third in the publication series of the Master's Programme in Urban Studies and Planning. It includes seven group projects by our students that were the result of their work for the Urban Challenge Studio course in Autumn 2019. In addition, the book includes three articles with the insights of a few of our programme teachers.

The theme of the studio course was "Sub-urban Futures" and the context was Malmi. Located north-east of the city of Helsinki, Malmi is an important regional centre and transportation hub constituted by various subdistricts with different functions, housing typologies, and sparse green areas. 

Demographically speaking, Malmi too has undergone social transformations due to - among other phenomena - immigration, globalisation, internal migration, ageing population, etc. Currently, redevelopment is under way in the area of Malmi airport which was Helsinki's main airport until 1952. Furthermore, densifying tendencies are also evident in Malmi where urban planning is once again called upon to provide spatial configurations vaguely accommodating sustainable growth and well-being of existing and future inhabitants. In this year's Urban Challenge Studio our students worked rigorously in multidisciplinary groups to re-imagine Malmi. You are very welcome to explore and disseminate this publication.    

USP Studio Publication 3
Sub-Urban Futures: Re-imagining Malmi

Editors: Michail Galanakis and Anssi Joutsiniemi
Publisher: Master’s Programme in Urban Studies and Planning
English language editor: Paul J. Cottier
Under layout design: Natalia Vladykina
Photos on the cover: Rista Simo, 1970 and Alanco Jan, 1981,, CC BY 4.0 license

ISBN 978-951-51-6903-7 (paperback
ISBN 978-951-51-6904-4 (PDF)

USP Stu­dent guide book 2023-2024

This USP Student Guide Book has been created by an international team of students. The Guide Book aims to make the academic journey of new USP students easier to navigate within two universities, seven target degrees, five campuses, three study tracks, one thesis and much much more.

The Guide Book sheds light on different university customs, traditions and systems that might seem abstract to new USP students at first. The team of students collected all the information they believed new  students might need, and provided links to places where to find more information. The Guide Book was created during summer 2019 and will be updated annually.

Sustainable Malmink­artano 2050

In spring 2019, USP course Urban Transitions and Futures focused on the Malminkartano suburb in the North-Western part of Helsinki. During the course, the students developed visions for the area, imagining it as a sustainable, post-carbon and desirable neighborhood in 2050. The students also thought about the pathways and initial interventions for achieving the desired futures.

The course collaborated with the City of Helsinki through the Urban Academy network. As part of the course, students organized a real-life visioning workshop for the city officials, the local residents and other local actors at the Malminkartano Library in March 2019. The aim of the workshop was to invite these local actors to co- create a sustainable future vision for the neighbourhood. How would a carbon zero Malminkartano  neighbourhood be to live in?

Luoyi vil­lage work­shop

Students and teachers from the Master's Programme in Urban Studies and Planning participated in an international workshop in Luoyi village in the Chengmai district of Hainan, China, in April 2019.

Luoyi is a typical example of global rural-to-urban migration trends, and the resultant neglect of the rural villages and traditional lifestyles. As a growing global trend, and a particularly acute problem throughout China, the multidisciplinary workshop spanned several themes concerning the revitalisation of rural villages, involving projects of varying size and time-scale. Students conducted field research and interviews whilst in Luoyi, and combined their different experiences in order to propose some development strategies for the village.

The booklet done by USP students is a collation of the experiences and complementary proposals for ensuring Luoyi village’s prosperity into the future. 
Link to news piece in Chinese media (video in English)

POST-URB­ANA ex­hib­i­tion

Science exhibition "POST-URBANA - How to explore future cities?" took place in the Jätkäsaari City Living Fair in September 2018. In the Future tent of the fair, urban researchers and students from the University of Helsinki and Aalto University exhibited their projects. The exhibition showcased possibilities for better urban living, covering different topics, scales and technology. In addition to the exhibition, the tent provided space for debate and open dialogue.

USP students' work from a field trip to Nanjing, China, was the highlight by the USP programme. The international field trip took place in March 2018 aiming to learn and understand rapidly growing Chinese cities and to address the complex challenges these cities are facing. Students prepared posters to exhibit their Nanjing group work in four different study themes: housing, street life, green roofs and education.

Read more about USP field trip to Nanjing, China
Link to the City Living Fair website

Other examples of research topics

Some examples of the range of ongoing and current topics include:

  • Vibrant Urban Economies, Welfare and Finance
  • Liveable Cities, Accessibility and Connectivity
  • Urban Sustainability and Socio-Ecological Resilience
  • Urban Ecosystem Ecology and Ecosystem Services
  • Urban Environmental and Social Governance and Justice
  • Urban Policies, Cultures and Socio-Economic Differentiation
  • Socio-Spatial mixing, Social Control and Social Cohesion
  • Nordic Welfare states and Ethnic Residential Segregation
  • Creative Knowledge and the Competitiveness of Metropolitan Regions
  • Metropolitan Regions within the European Union
  • Urban Poverty and Competitive Cities
  • Urban Vulnerability, Adaptability and Resilience
  • Education and Effects on Lifestyles and Neighbourhoods
  • Governance of Urban and Complex Adaptive Systems
  • Urban Energy, Communications and Transport Systems
  • Citizen-Centred Service Design and Urban Product-Service-Systems
  • Transition towards Sustainable and Liveable Urban Futures
  • Systemic Urban Governance for Social Cohesion
  • Historical Portrayal and Meanings of the City
  • Production of Citizenship and Citizen Participation
  • Political, Social, Cultural and Linguistic Urban Identities
  • Urban Architectural Morphologies and Landscapes
  • Markets and Urban Industries, Work and Leisure
  • Development of Planning Professional Roles
  • Transdisciplinary Pedagogies for ‘Wicked’ Planning Problems
  • Urban Natures, Blue-Green Systems and Landscape Planning
  • Productive Food Landscapes and Urban Sustainability
Helsinki Institute of Urban and Regional Studies

At the University of Helsinki, the USP Master's Programme is linked to the research conducted at the Helsinki Institute of Urban and Regional Studies (Urbaria). It is the first academic multi-disciplinary urban research unit in Finland. The institute tackles complex problems of urban and regional development by research and education. It combines the long-standing academic excellence of research in the University of Helsinki with emerging transdisciplinary collaborations with cities and other actors. The research focuses on three interlinking fields: places, people and politics in an international setting.

Read more about the Helsinki Institute of Urban and Regional Studies (Urbaria)

USP digiloikka

The USP digiloikka project will enhance the development of digital solutions in teaching and at the same time will build upon international cooperation. In practice, our project is aiming at the co-creation of a pilot 5-10 ECTS course in urban studies, to be possibly implemented through the collaboration with one to three other international universities. Moreover, we will create a digital strategy for the master's programme to be adopted in the on-going and future offer of digital courses at the USP Master’s Programme.

We are eager to work on the creation of a digital platform, to test the chances of learning about urbanization in an online environment, and to turn this into a pedagogically sound instrument to fuel non-digital and multi-sited learning activities. We are relying on one hand on the expertise of our teaching community, which spans several disciplines across two leading universities and on the collaboration of students. Nevertheless, to accomplish the project, we also need to even out the digital expertise of lecturers via dedicated training and workshops. A key collaboration in this will be with the University of Helsinki Centre for University Teaching and Learning.

Read more about the USP project and other digiloikka projects at the University of Helsinki in the digiloikka blog site.