Kakola Urban Design Competition, 2004

Project Objective

Civilizing Ecologies: reinventing Kakola proposes to reclaim Kakolanmänmaki as a cultural amenity. It reconnects the promontory to the city and a larger landscape marks this transformation on the city skyline and provides a vibrant civic realm that includes parks, gardens, housing, commercial enterprises, institutional facilities, cultural events, and community infrastructure.

The architecturally significant historic buildings, as identified by the antiquities board, establish the integrity of Kakola and suggest the potentials and limits for proposing interventions. Well-considered landscape space is required to harmonically enhance these stately buildings. Housing on the hill must be dense to achieve competition priorities. Civilizing Ecologies concentrates housing in a violated organizational system balancing efficient repetitive modules with the terraced site dynamic achieving appropriate open space in other areas. A central pedestrian promenade organizes the site spatially and infrastructurally locking together the many incongruous elements in “pirunnyrkki” fashion.

The promenade, as urban ecology, utilizes pihakatu strategies providing limited vehicular access (taxi and city bus) while establishing a vital urban infrastructure on the hill. New housing clearly defines the northwest edge, of the promenade while the southeast is freer to link varied scales of the Warden’s house and gardens, Remand Prison, prison kitchen, and the specimen main buildings. The promenade connects major areas and functions suggesting connections to the city and sea beyond. It is an attractive destination as well as a new route for bicycles and pedestrians.

Researching the Site

Natural ecologies are preserved and deployed on the southern portion of the site. The existing park, primarily in the southwest, is augmented with improved cycle and pedestrian connections, cleared of industrial buildings and virtually unchanged as a park landscape. A ‘vertical garden’ figuratively replaces the quarry by merely adding vegetation, pedestrian routes, walking paths, and framed observational vistas for visitors to enjoy. Rocky outcrops toward the city and sea are made accessible but not built upon continuing their dominant visual presence. Preserving these natural attributes also provides a habitat for birds, insects, and other wildlife species that in turn nurture plant life.

New building programs and uses are a major component of healthy economic ecologies. Civilizing Ecologies proposes a mix of institutional, cultural, and commercial ventures that have the potential to mutually support each other — a true measure of an ecology.

The major commercial component is a ±70 room high-quality hotel as a renovation of the western cells building. It is conjoined with the main prison building at the upper levels utilizing the upper floors of the day-night cells for a meeting hall and meeting rooms. With the proximity to Turku castle, the technical and art schools, music conservancy, and ferries to Sweden, it suggests a natural location for overnighting. It could also be promoted as a meeting place for small congresses, seminars, and retreats — perhaps a favorite of prison administrators and guards.

Project Design

Locating a hotel away from the downtown is risky without good commercial support. The Warden’s sauna/garage building is now a casual dining and pub establishment. The Warden’s house is transformed into a fine dining restaurant catering to the new local residents and hotel guests. These programs also provide important destinations for adjacent neighborhoods. A café and grocery (formerly the prison kitchen), retail space in the hotel, and retail commercial kiosks below the housing along the promenade are provided to support both the public and residential components of the proposal.

The kiosks are modules nestled under the apartment blocks at the promenade. This allows flexibility in adding, altering, or easily reconstructing them as markets change or other functions are needed.

Commercial office space (1000 m2) for lease is provided on the upper floors of the main building. This mutually supportive mix of the commercial programs is critical for the economic health of an urban cluster area.

As a civic ecology, the proposed prison museum provides insights into the historic roles of transgression, punishment, and rehabilitation. Utilizing the mezzanine of the main building and lower floors of the day-night cells (preserved at this level). The museum will support the hotel to some extent and joint use of the meeting facilities provides spatial efficiencies. The existing retail and workshop building is maintained and hopefully could still operate as a prison venture with merchandise from the new prison location and/or include other retail merchandise.

The Remand Prison is transformed into elderly care and assisted living center. The scale, configuration, facilities, and location on the site suggest that it is well suited for this use. It is linked via a playground to a new preschool in the Deputy Warden’s house. As a cultural ecology, associating the young and old nurtures both groups provides an activated public space, and passes culture
through generations.

Directly to the south of the new elderly home, on a gently sloping sunny grade, a scheme for productive vegetable, herb, and flower gardens is suggested. This links many ecologies and systemically supports natural, cultural, and sustainable ecologies.

Connections with existing adjacent educational institutions, such as the nearby music conservancy or technical school, are a natural segue for building programs as educational ecologies. The prison for the mentally ill is an appropriate scale and well situated at the edge of the park for a small technology, art school, or adult continuing education center. It could be easily transformed into classroom or studio spaces, faculty offices, and support spaces.

Sustainable ecologies tap into the wastewater treatment system output as a resource. As a backup or alternative for piped-out sludge removal, storage tanks are provided for raw sludge output and return of centrifuged sludge for reactivation. This could also be used as part of composting for the gardens (organic). An optional energy plant is also provided (as the existing one has been removed). These infrastructural systems are located in the visually isolated area just east of the Remand Prison. The energy plant could also be linked to the waste recycling process as an industrial ecology.

Housing, as social ecology, extends who we are and relates us to others and the world. Civilizing ecologies propose interlocking multiple scales of urban dwellings and a range of apartment typologies. This provides accessibility to persons of varied economic resources — economic poly-culture — the essence of urban living. All too often single market apartment blocks are erected stifling variety and individuality. The proposed housing ranges from 28 m2 of studio apartments to 110 m2 of urban homes. The range of unit types includes flats, studios, double-height living rooms, studio lofts, and large lofts.

Building configurations employ roof terraces adding controlled semi-private space as an extension of the natural terracing of the site. A balance is sought between defining public spaces at building clusters and lightly touching the ground to hover over the slopes — respecting the natural groundscape. The massing, scale, and articulation are derived to convey activity in repose at once being energetic at the moment while being resolute at large.

Transporting ecologies strive to reclaim the street for pedestrians and cyclists without eradicating the automobile. The transportation is configured to divert cars to the parking garages as they enter the site providing an ‘auto-free’ zone in the central part of the promenade. This limited access area will allow taxis, deliveries, and residential loading and unloading but no through traffic. A bus stop is provided to connect Kakola to the public transportation system. Preliminary analysis shows a smaller “city bus” is readily feasible.

Automobiles stow in two main parking lots. A resident’s park under the housing and the public/private parking garage located under the Remand Prison. Pedestrian entry/exit points are by elevator at the Remand Prison and into/through the vertical garden (quarry).

Bicycle and pedestrian paths are carefully designed to provide direct routes while offering opportunities to enjoy the garden areas of the site.

Civilizing Ecologies proposes strategies for successfully reinventing Kakola, balancing historic prison landscape sensibilities with the requirements of modern urbanism. Deploying efficient modular housing technologies, adapted to the unique qualities of the site achieves individuality while respecting the local urban fabric. These concerns have guided the proposal. The promenade provides organizational and pihakatu strategies that braid the many threads of the project. New building program proposals engage people in social, cultural, commercial, and community activities — all of which must be present to support a successful urban cluster area.

The proposal visualizes one plausible solution, but more importantly raises questions and suggests the interweaving strategies important to success in reinventing Kakola.