Research projects
Here you can find examples about the research project in urban studies.

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.  


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.

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.

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.

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:

  1. Engaging students in real-life urban challenge solving processes.
  2. Establishing multidisciplinary and cross-sectorial networks of young experts, academics, and practitioners from different backgrounds.
  3. Offering students in-depth knowledge and practical experience through actual planning work.
  4. 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.

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.

The Centre for Sociology of Democracy (CSD) investigates democracy in contemporary societies. The projects within the centre address this topic from different perspectives, deploying a variety of methodological approaches, while sharing the common framework of pragmatist theorizing of the social. The centre conducts sociological research that addresses the large-scale wicked problems that societies – and the whole of humanity outright – are facing, including economic, social, environmental, and political inequality, as well as interlinked threats to democracy and equity-based governance.

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.

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.

The research project examines community resilience in Helsinki during the COVID-19 pandemic. Community resilience is defined as the capability of local communities to face crises, act in them, and take care of the wellbeing of their members.
The research focuses on the so-called third and fourth sectors, referring to associations, non-governmental organizations, and religious communities and self-organized civic engagement and activism by local residents, respectively. Local businesses and the city organization are examined as partners of the third and fourth sectors.

We will investigate how residential areas of Helsinki differ from one another in their communal activities during the pandemic, and what kind of a role these activities have in the wellbeing of residents in these areas. What kind of segregation of community resilience exists in Helsinki, and how can different actors, especially the city organization, prevent such segregation during the COVID-19 pandemic and also in future crises. Particular attention is paid to people in the most vulnerable position and their wellbeing.


Professori Henrietta Grönlund
+358503148772, +358294123472

Re:Urbia is a study of the state and development of suburban housing estates in the 2020’s Finland. The research project analyses the multidimensional segregation processes in suburbs from the perspective of e.g. residential migration, schools and the attraction and holding power of suburbs, and re-conceptualizes planning solutions and services in the suburbs. Re:Urbia is part of Lähiöohjelma, funded by the Ministry of Environment for the years 2020–2022 for promoting positive development in suburbs.

Docent Venla Bernelius
+358504154865, +358294150784

The research project ”Equality in suburban physical activity environments” is a co-project of geographers from the University of Helsinki and social scientists of sports from the University of Jyväskylä. The project studies active lifestyles, sports activities and especially residents’ equal possibilities to access sport facilities and physical activity environments in Finnish suburbans. Our special study areas are the Huhtasuo suburban in the city of Jyväskylä and the Kontula suburban in the city of Helsinki. Research results provides information to support decision making and planning. 

Specially, the project studies the applicability of GIS (geographic information systems) when supporting decision making and planning. The project is developing new GIS data outputs and even indicators and tools to describe the spatial and temporal nature of residents’ activities and active lifestyles. It has been noticed earlier that active and healthy lifestyles helps to prevent exclusion. 

The project combines researchers from the research group Geography of Well-being and Education and Digital Geography Lab from the University of Helsinki and researchers from the Social Sciences of Sport, University of Jyväskylä. The project collaborators are the LIPAS-database and service, the city of Helsinki, and the city of Jyväskylä. 


University lecturer Petteri Muukkonen
+358 50 448 9195, +358 2941 50775

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

Postdoctoral researcher Seona Candy
+358294150774, +358504750915

UH-VTT-GTK research consortium is studying, how to mitigate induced seismic risk associated with deep geothermal power stations in the Helsinki capital region? Small low magnitude earthquakes pose a risk to the critical tremor sensitive infrastructure such as

  • hospitals
  • data centers
  • underground construction

Risk can be mitigated with transparent permitting, seismic monitoring and regional planning.The project will publish a set of seismic hazard maps of Finland and assess the potential impact of seismic waves on different parts of the capital area via 3D models: shear wave tomography, conceptual soil and bedrock model. In addition the project will study the different roles the national, regional and municipal governance in the wicked permitting processes. It will also study what sort of information and at what level of detail do the authorities need on induced seismicity and associated risks?

Find more details about project at the webpage of the project.

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.

Website of the Geographies of Education and devided Cities research group

Kaksivuotinen tutkimushanke keskittyy monitieteisten taitojen kehittämiseen kaupunkitutkimuksessa ja uusien tapojen löytämiseen yliopistojen ja kaupunkien välisen tiedonsiirron parantamiseksi. Hankkeen tavoitteena on löytää uusia menetelmiä kaupunkitoimijoiden ja tutkijoiden välisen yhteistyön kehittämiseksi erityisesti keskittymällä tiedon yhteistuotantoon. Tutkimusta tehdään analysoimalla kaupunkitutkimuksen yhteistyön nykytilaa, vertailemalla kansainvälisesti tunnettuja kaupunkitutkimuslaitoksia sekä järjestämällä ja kehittämällä malleja uudentyyppisille työpajoille yhteistyön ja tiedonvaihdon tehostamiseksi.

Tutkimusprojektin tarkoituksena on tuottaa tutkimustuloksia ja uutta tietoa aiheesta. Tämän lisäksi tavoitteena on myös luoda konkreettisia ehdotuksia ja malleja yliopistojen ja kaupunkitoimijoiden välisen yhteistyön tehostamiseksi ja tukea tietoon perustuvaa päätöksentekoa kaupungeissa.

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.

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 no

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. Map­ping the lin­guistic land­scape of the Helsinki met­ro­pol­itan area (MAPHEL) research project is funded by the Emil Aaltonen Foundation (2020-2022) and based in the Digital Geography Lab.

Contact information
Assistant professor Tuomo Hiippala
+358503773366, +358294123416

Rats have lived with humans since the beginning of agriculture. Rats have also been studied by scientists in laboratories around the globe and we know quite lot about them. Nevertheless, we do not really know what they are doing when they live wild in city parks, sewers and tunnels, in their evolutionary new and ever-changing habitat. Our research project aims to uncover the spatio-temporal variation in rat populations, how rats share and spread parasites and pathogens and how humans feel and think about rats in urban setting.

More about the project here.

The Healthy Outdoor Premises for Everyone – HOPE project is about promoting a healthy urban environment in collaboration of different actors from local government and citizens to businesses and scientists. The project is led by the City of Helsinki and co-funded by the Urban Innovation Actions programme of the European Union. Within the project, we at the Digital Geography Lab aim to provide a better understanding of the multiple environmental exposures during travel. We study how people in the Helsinki capital region are exposed to air pollution, traffic noise and street-level greenery while walking or cycling, and what are their opportunities to experience healthier travel routes. We have developed an open-source Green Paths routing tool that helps to find walking and cycling routes with less pollution and more greenery that the shortest route. Find out more about the tool and Digital Geography Lab’s action from here and about the whole HOPE project from here.

Urban green spaces have an important role to play in mitigating climate change and adapting to its effects. It is therefore possible to utilize the potential of urban green in carbon sequestration more efficiently than at present. CO-CARBON is a multidisciplinary research project that aims to measure and model the carbon sequestration capacity of urban green. New solutions for the design, implementation and maintenance of carbon-efficient urban green are being developed not only through scientific research but also interactively with residents, businesses, cities and other actors.

The CO-CARBON project is implemented in cooperation between the University of Helsinki, Aalto University, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, Häme University of Applied Sciences and the University of Copenhagen. The project is funded by the Strategic Research Council (STN) of the Academy of Finland. CO-CARBON is part of STN's Climate Change and Human Research Program (CLIMATE). The program seeks solutions to how people can make choices related to climate change mitigation or adaptation, and how society enables choices to be made sustainably and on an equal footing.

To be liveable, equitable, resilient and positive contributors to global sustainability, cities need to be designed and governed as complex systems where technological and digital infrastructure supports ecological-biophysical and social-institutional-economic dynamics. We must cut across silos in disciplines, approaches, and knowledge systems by bringing technology, people, and nature together.

The SMARTer Greener Cities project (2020-2023) aims to develop and test novel tools and processes for explicitly converging social, ecological, and technological systems (SETS) approaches for improving life in cities.

There is little information available on the teaching and maintenance of Asian languages ​​as part of the Finnish language reserve as non-foreign languages. In our project, we focus on Japan, which is taught as a mother tongue and home language in schools in a few cities, as well as in a Saturday school run by the school association. In Japanese terminology, kokugo (国語) “national language” links teaching to “official” mother tongue teaching in Japan. The Japanese language in general and in contrast to other languages ​​is instead referred to by the term Nihongo (日本語). Japanese as the language capital is thus Nihongo, and depending on the education provider, the subject is also the “official” kokugo equivalent to the first language. Riikka Länsisalmi and Sachiko Sōsa not only map and examine the current state of Japanese teaching and learning as a mother tongue, home language and heritage in their research project but also analyze the linguistic ideologies and attitudes related to it.

Contact information

Riikka Länsisalmi
University Lecturer in Japanese, Docent of Japanese Studies, Head of Asian Languages
+358 2941 23290