Research projects and groups
Developing Co-creation Models for Urban Research Collaboration
This two-year research project focuses on developing multidisciplinary proficiency in urban studies and discovering new ways to improve knowledge transfer between universities and cities. It aims to discover new methods for co-operation between urban actors and scientists especially focusing on knowledge co-creation. Research is conducted by analysing the current state of collaboration within urban studies, benchmarking internationally well known urban research institutes and organizing and developing models for new types of workshop to enhance collaboration and knowledge exchange between universities and urban actors.
This project aims to produce research outputs and new knowledge of the topic but also to create concrete suggestions and models for enhancing collaboration between cities universities and other urban actors to support knowledge-based decisionmaking in cities.
Contrasting and Re-Imagining Margins of Kinship – is a consortium of researchers involved in the creation of new ideas about relationships, kinship, family, sexualities etc. in a number of contexts. The project provides a substantive contribution to the theories of kinship and sexuality. CoreKin reimagines answers to the question “What kinship is all about”. This is done by combining qualitative and quantitative data and contrasting the intimate economics of kinship through fieldwork in diverse social realities. The project aims not only to clarify how invisible, illegitimate and otherwise marginalized care relations are affected by state policies and economic currencies but also how they resist and redescribe norms and state powers.
The Digital Geography Lab explores the use of novel big (and open) data sources and cutting-edge methods in supporting sustainable spatial planning and decision-making. Our main focus is on two intertwined areas of research: human mobility/accessibility and biodiversity conservation. We take advantage of new data sources, such as social media content, mobile phone call detail records, and public transport timetables, combined with remotely-sensed and register data, which we use for carrying out advanced spatial analyses of accessibility and mobility patterns, conservation opportunities and threats, and tracking illegal wildlife trade trafficking. Our research is conducted at various spatial scales in Finland, Estonia, South Africa and Uruguay, extending across continental and global scales. The Digital Geography Lab is also a forerunner in open science and actively shares its research tools and data with different stakeholders both within and outside academia.
Connecting the Plots (CTP) is a transdisciplinary research project that examines the potential of traditional and non-traditional urban allotment gardens (UAGs) as networked multifunctional green infrastructure to improve community vitality and social cohesion of Finnish suburbs. With food production as a lingua franca, our aim is to investigate if UAGs can be used more effectively to not only influence social relations between suburban dwellers but as part of a long-term strategy for regional segregation prevention in suburban neighborhoods and activation of disused urban spaces. The project will focus on suburbs within the City of Vantaa, the most ethnically diverse, fastest growing, and highly under-studied city in Finland, with significant potential to expand green infrastructure in suburban neighborhoods. In collaboration with environmental planners, multi-cultural affairs officers, and local resident participation, quantitative and qualitative data will be used to co-create, test and evaluate interventions related to UAG site selection, community engagement, garden design and management
EIT 2018 experimental project Urban Oasis aims to open up a discussion about the reuse of empty urban spaces and the potential they might have as common year-around indoor gardens and living rooms of citizens. In May 2018, a demo environment was created in Teurastamo, Helsinki, a popular urban hub for culture and food. The project hopes to co-create new ways of working around the theme and to contemplate the meaning of urban experiments in city development in general. The project is funded by the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) Climate-KIC Nordic.
Cities are in a key role in the research of societal security. Fragile cities in the global South: Societal security, environmental vulnerability and representative justice project analyses the ways that fragile cities are dealing with societal security, environmental vulnerability and representative justice. The research develops a revised theory of urban political ecology that helps us to understand the interlinkages between security and vulnerability. Through several case studies, we identify the opportunities and constraints involved in new forms to manage urban insecurities. The methods include documentary analysis and interviews with policymakers, activists and residents. FCITIES will increase theoretical, methodological and societal understanding of the multi-scalar complexities of security, vulnerability and justice in fragile cities.
The research programme Fifth Dimension - green roofs and wals in urban areas aims to produce high-level scientific and broadly applicable knowledge on optimal green roof solutions in Finland. Scientifically, green roofs serve as experimental model ecosystems for research and provide an opportunity for inter- and transdisciplinary research that is societally relevant. The research policy of the programme includes working in close contact with the end users of scientific knowledge, such as municipal and state authorities, companies and citizens. Our main target concerns the potential of green roofs to enhance urban nature and ecosystem services, as part of multifunctional urban green infrastructure. The aim of the programme is to evaluate the various benefits green roofs may offer, and to develop optimal solutions and designs for green roofs that offer the best possible services for urban residents.
Food Economics and Business Management for Sustainable Food Systems research group perceive food-research as a transdisciplinary challenge toward a sustainable future, in social, economic, and environmental terms. The group aims to contribute toward a better understanding of managerial, organizational and behavioral issues in food systems for sustainable change. They research food systems in urban settings: urban agriculture, alternative food systems and urban communities.
In many cities, poor and rich people are increasingly living in separate neighbourhoods. Socio-spatial segregation – the uneven distribution of different social groups across the city – is not only growing on the neighbourhood level, but simultaneously affects other life contexts. Educational institutions, such as kindergartens and schools, are strongly connected to the socio-spatial fabric of the city. In the GED research group, we study the complex relationships between socio-spatial segregation, educational inequalities and segregating future horizons in different urban contexts and emerging national peripheries of education.
The intended long-term impact of the Integrative Mechanisms for Addressing Spatial Justice and Territorial Inequalities in Europe (IMAJINE) project is to contribute to the reduction of territorial inequalities in the European Union and to promote social and spatial justice, through the development of new integrative policy mechanisms. University of Helsinki is responsible for the Work Package 1 of the project which makes a review the key literatures on the concepts of spatial justice, territorial inequality and social cohesion and analyses their use in the policy circles at regional, national and EU levels. From the Urbaria researchers involved in the IMAJINE projects are Mikko Weckroth and Sami Moisio.
Justification for agreement-based approaches in Nordic spatial planning: towards situational direct democracy?
The JustDe research project examines the ways in which new spatial planning governance networks and traditional government practices are juxtaposed in a city-regional context. We study how new planning practices are interpreted by different actors, and what kind of implications these interpretations have for the justification of societal decision making and the idea of the “political” in spatial planning. The empirical focus is on the relatively recent state initiatives in Finland, Sweden and Norway, in which strategic agreements concerning spatial development and major infrastructure and innovation investments are in a pivotal role. The JustDe project is funded by the Academy of Finland 2018-2022.
Know Your Neighbour is a multidisciplinary project, which is based on cooperation between University of Helsinki, Otava Folk High School and Butterworks Oy media house. We utilize the Imitation Game in the fields of research, education and media to build empathy and understanding into the world of constantly changing neighbourhood relationships.
Cities in Finland and around the world are becoming increasingly multilingual and -cultural. Consequently, there is a growing need to understand urban multilingualism and its effects. The goal of this project is to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the linguistic landscape of the Helsinki metropolitan area by combining data from official registers and social media platforms. This novel combination of data provides insights on the residents’ perceived linguistic identity and the languages they use and encounter in everyday life. By focusing on language use, the project seeks to move beyond linguistic groups and towards identifying discourse communities, which form around shared experiences and issues in the city and extend across linguistic groups.
Mixed classes And Pedagogical Solutions (MAPS) is a comparative research project carried out in collaboration between the universities of Helsinki, Amsterdam and Iceland. We seek answers to how urban schools in Helsinki, Amsterdam and Reykjavík tackle challenges brought on by segregation with the idea of inclusive education. The project is situated in the research unit Social Studies in Urban Education (SURE). MAPS is funded by NordForsk for a three-year period in 2018–2020.
Nordic City Challenge is a 3-day intensive course on sustainable, multidisciplinary and practical urban planning. It is organized annually in different Nordic countries. The course gathers 20-25 students from the Nordic countries to share ideas and work together on a real-life planning case.
The Nordic City Challenge has four main purposes:
- Engaging students in real-life urban challenge solving processes.
- Establishing multidisciplinary and cross-sectorial networks of young experts, academics, and practitioners from different backgrounds.
- Offering students in-depth knowledge and practical experience through actual planning work.
- Producing new perspectives and innovations for Nordic societal development and to deepen Nordic cooperation.
The similarities between Nordic societies and structures have enabled interesting comparisons and solutions. The comparison of Nordic cases has widened and strengthened both experts’ and students’ understanding of current trends in urban development. In doing so, it has contributed to the creation of social-ecological models for densifying urban areas in Nordic cities. The students’ proposals have also been applied to practical urban planning projects.
We are witnessing an exponential growth of urban areas and the emergence of mega-cities. The Sensing and Analytics of Air Quality (MegaSense) project investigates massive-scale pollution and environmental sensing enhanced by advanced data analytics and AI techniques. The mission of MegaSense is to use machine learning techniques for the calibration of a high number of low-quality and low-cost sensors with a small number of highly accurate measurement stations. The project addresses the global challenge pertaining to pollution modelling and prediction, while considering the limitations of the state-of-the-art low density of measurement stations and lack of high-resolution spatial-temporal data.
Social Studies in Urban Education is a research unit focusing on the social phenomena embedded in urban schooling in diverse urban environments. The research foci comprise the themes of educational transitions in the life-course, urban and school segregation, diversified social environments and social dynamics in schools and classrooms, as well as the differentiated everyday practices and educational experiences of children and young people from different backgrounds. The group operates primarily in the fields of sociology of education and urban studies, and aims to operationalize and analyse the phenomena on macro, meso and micro levels, as well as between them, through intersectional lenses.
Future smart cities must be based on sustainability principles; they must provide improved quality of life for all citizens, be safe and as emsission-free as possible. This goal requires radical reforms in the traffic, namely creation of automated ground vehicle ecosystems, and moving parts of the transportation of goods, probably also human, to the airspace by using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Pedestrians and bicyclists must be included in traffic monitoring and controlling actions, a fact that has been largely neglected so far in the discussion about automated traffic. All these goals demand developmet of sophisticated spatiotemporal data analysis algorithms. In order to implement a functional traffic ecosystem assuring safe cooperation of all these actors, knowledge of their position, ability to predict their movements and capability to fuse all this information together is crucial. The Spatiotemporal Data Analysis research group does research on estimation and machine learning algorithms to solve the remaining challenges for achieving these goals.
Lähiympäristö 2.0 research project compiles the current knowledge on how to plan safe urban environments. The focus is on studying existing cases and planning principles, which will be further developed by reflecting on new planning processes. The project will produce recommendations on how to apply these principles to different stages of the planning process. Special attention is paid for collaboration processes. Lähiympäristö 2.0 is funded by analysis, assessment and research activities, coordinated by Prime Minister’s Office (VN TEAS). Lähiympäristö 2.0 research team includes researchers from VTT, University of Helsinki, Aalto University and SPEK. Lähiympäristö 2.0 researchers at the University of Helsinki are Suvi Välimäki and Rami Ratvio.
The Urban Ecology Research Group (Dept. of Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki) focuses on research and teaching in the urban setting. Urban areas provide excellent opportunities for ecological and multidisciplinary research that combine social and natural sciences. The group enhances sustainable urban development by disseminating their research findings to planners, managers and decision makers. The Urban Ecology Research Group run several research projects and is actively involved in the Urban Academy platform.
The overall aim of the Urban Ecosystems Research Group is to produce high-level, ecological theory-based scientific knowledge on the influence of urban greenspaces on ecosystem services in urbanized settings. Furthermore, we explore the relevance of artificial greenspaces, such as green roofs and bioinfiltration ponds, in ES provision in heavily-built urban areas. We also aim at providing data that are readily usable for end users, such as city planners and authorities. We recognize urban greenspaces as multifunctional “urban oases” with a high potential to provide many of the same ES that more natural systems do.
The research done within the UEP group covers a variety of topics. We mainly concentrate on urban topics. The scale of our research varies from very local case studies to global scale statistical analysis.
Urban centres, emitting large amounts of greenhouse gases, play a significant role in global efforts to mitigate climate change. In addition, cities and their populations are vulnerable to different impacts of climate change, such as sea level rise, floods or heat waves, and need to have robust strategies for adapting to climate change. Cities are intricately linked with the surrounding countryside and, through globalisation, with other countries and regions. For instance, food and energy consumed within the cities are sourced and produced outside the city boundaries, and potential impacts of climate change on the supply of these commodities need to be identified and assessed.
Over half of the world's population lives in urban areas and the fraction is expected to further increase in the future. Thus, increasing number of people are exposed to local urban meteorology and climate at the same time when emitting increasing amount of air pollutants and greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Urban Meteorology group studies the coupling between the urban ecosystem and the atmosphere using state-of-the-art observations and modelling. The group is also part of the Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research (INAR).
The main goal of the Urban Multilingualism in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area project was to examine the individual multilingualism of Helsinki Metropolitan Area speakers and how it appears in their everyday life. The students interviewed people of their choosing with the questionnaire and the collected data was analyzed by the project researchers. In total 157 consultants were included in the research. They spoke 72 different mother tongues and 76 different languages in total. This is approximately 44% of the languages found in previous statistics. As a result, six languages previously unmentioned in statistics were found. More detailed information on the project and its results can be found on their website.
How do religion and religious communities influence the life and well-being of cities and people living in them? Urban theology is a University of Helsinki based research and teaching project that aims to incorporate urbanisation-related themes into the Faculty of Theology’s research and develop academic theological education based on it. The project combines theory and practice and aims in providing new generations of theologians with solid and practical skills to operate in changing urban contexts. For this, community-based university pedagogics are applied and developed; teaching and studying take place not only in classrooms and libraries but also on city streets, churches, mosques, malls, and soup kitchens. The Urban theology project is funded by the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland. The project, however, represents academic research and teaching, unaffiliated with any particular religion or belief.