The excursion of the first year USP students in Autumn 2018 took place on an east-west axis north of downtown Helsinki, from Myllypuro (Helsinki) to Leppävaara (Espoo). The excursion had two important goals:
- A social “get together” for the new students to meet each-other during an intensive two-day program.
- An important educational activity for students to familiarize themselves with the field of study of the course Studio 1. Through the bicycle ride crossing different landscapes and environments, students experienced different types of urban space, and through tailored group exercises they were guided to organize and discuss their observations.
A straight line of sight – an axis – plays important role in classical urban design. The axiality supports orientation, intelligibility, and the arrangement of core activities. The excursion axis provided a simple shortest 15 km stretch between points A and B, extending through the suburban fringe. The benefit of this approach was that it cut the urban tissue randomly and gave an opportunity to observe elements of urban agglomeration seemingly separate from their intended, original context. Cutting the urban neighborhood in this unorthodox way also provided a good starting point for a multitude of observations.
During the two-day trip on bikes, several brief exercises were given to help students in acquiring a more grounded approach to space.
In addition to these assignments, teachers gave talks introducing different themes, highlighting the connections between theory and practice. Students were asked to observe and take photos along the route on themes such as:
- Urban centrality
- Urban nature
- Urban transformation
- Urban living
- Green corridors
- Sub/Urban landscape
- Urban infrastructures
- Places of production
- Urban borders
The excursion concluded with a wrap-up session at the Leppävaara Tower generously hosted by the WSP-office. Therein students brainstormed and presented categories of nature and kinds of green infrastructure they identified. Students and teachers were tired but happy about the excursion and the opportunity it provided to get to know each other as well as to familiarize ourselves with the multiple meanings of "the urban". A great start for the new academic year!