Research theme: Urban

Urbanized areas cover only a fraction of the Earth’s surface but their vast human populations determine the future of our societies.

As cities are the centres of culture, creativity and innovation, they bring together diverse human populations and foster the exchange of ideas. Cities play a key role in societal transformations but they are also places of social conflicts, segregation and environmental and health problems.

The future of urban societies rests on how we meet the fundamental challenges cities face today. The tension between ecological imperatives and economic competitiveness constitutes one such dilemma. In current urban development, this challenge needs to be met in a way that produces favourable results from the perspective of the people living in urban environments.

Helsinki In­sti­tute of Urban and Regional Stud­ies

Urbaria aims to conduct, develop and coordinate urban research and teaching within the University of Helsinki. The Institute closely cooperates with Aalto Living+ Platform and the cities of the Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa while paying special attention to their joint initiatives Urban Academy. It is also the task of the institute to maintain contact to other stakeholders on the urban field, such as universities, research institutes, government organisations, corporations and non-governmental organisations, both nationally and internationally. Moreover, the Institute coordinates the teaching of urban studies within the University of Helsinki, which is especially linked to the international Master's Programme in Urban Studies and Planning (see below). 

Through this multidisciplinary expertise both in research and teaching, the Institute addresses current and urgent contemporary urban challenges not only in Finland but on the European and global scale. Furthermore, the Institute aims to develop societal impact in the field of urban and regional studies.

Rapid urbanisation has driven exponential demand for natural resources, energy, and built infrastructure, largely using outmoded 20th century design and construction techniques which threatens the resilience of urban systems. More radical thinking is required to develop sustainability transformations that support low impact, sustainable lifestyles by 2030.  HELSUS and URBARIA members have co-created a set of urban sustainability research themes to support rapid and just transformations in cities globally. 

The Master’s Programme in Urban Studies and Planning is a multidisciplinary master's programme at the University of Helsinki and Aalto University.  The programme prepares students to excel as professionals capable of understanding and addressing complex urban development challenges. Students learn to address such challenges through a curriculum and pedagogical approach that includes interdisciplinary breadth as well as depth in core areas of knowledge, skill and practice. The programme evolves around three major study lines: Peoples, Plans and Systems.

Urban Academy is a platform and network that brings together multidisciplinary research, teaching and societal impact in the field of urban studies. It is the partnership of five organizations: University of Helsinki, Aalto University, City of Helsinki, City of Espoo and City of Vantaa.

The Urban Academy’s vision is to create better and more sustainable cities through collaboration. The used method is co-creation, which enables to demolish boundaries between traditional academic disciplines and between the different divisions of cities. Urban Academy brings together researchers and students, policymakers, urban planners, officials and residents to learn from each other through concrete case studies and problem-solving.