Smart Station: Transformation of Railway Station Areas in Finland. European Urban Research Association Conference 2016: City lights. Cities and Citizens within/beyond/notwithstanding the crisis. Torino, Italy.

    Activity: Talk or presentationConference presentation

    Description

    Abstract Cities go through continuous transformation processes, manifested diversely in different times. Various railway station areas in Europe have been regenerated during the last decades, not least due to development of the high speed train network and densification of city centers. Later on, the same phenomenon has now reached Finland, where a bunch of cities are simultaneously searching for strategies to develop their railway station areas. There are no ready-made concepts for this work, since the situation is new in Finland and station areas with their multifaceted public and private stakeholders are quite specific cases to be tackled. On the other hand, cities have recognized significant developmental potentials embedded in these areas. In this article we put an effort to understand the station area development in wider context and, based on this, outline some general principles to be considered in development and planning processes. Our starting point is to identify the continuum of immaterial and material urban development that links together economic and innovation policies as well as urban planning. In Finland, 1980-90s was a period of traditional technology centers and science parks with their distinctive urban embodiments. After this, 1990-2000s, was a heyday of “urban fallows”, development of run down industrial and dock premises for creative economy. Now, in 2010s, the latest phase seems to be focusing on the railway station areas, which have been loaded with economic and innovative objectives included in “smart” urban strategies and more open forms of innovation policies of the cities. For providing these objectives better chances to come true, we need to create urban development processes that take into account their immaterial and material dimensions as well as planned and emergent interventions. However, this requires that we are able to conceive “smart city” in wider terms than the prevailing frame of digital technology and related services can offer. Considering that the different phases of innovation policies have their own counterparts in urban space, it is only logical that evolving open innovation will have its spatial manifestations, too. One of the main tasks of urban space is to support societal changes, which usually takes place through the flexibility of physical space and structures. As a deep-rooted heritage from the modernist era, flexibility often comes true by demolishing old and building new structures, but the increasing exigencies of energy- and resource efficiency force us to think flexibility anew. The lessons we learned from urban fallows were that robust structures enable us to recycle spaces through centuries with the help of relatively small refurbishments. Moreover, robust structures provide a platform for bottom-up production of space, necessary for urban embedding of open innovation. In this sense a robust city is never complete, but in a continuous state of becoming. Therefore in our reasoning “smart city” should be considered a dynamic assemblage that is based on new kinds of planning principles. We need a shift from production-driven to demand-driven urban space. The medium for optimizing the match between the users and providers of space is digital technology. Thus, “smart city” could be understood as a fundamental change in the production process of urban space, that have strong linkages to economic and innovation policies of cities. And finally, it is fair to remind that it depends on local decisions and political choices how the emerging potentials will be realized. Keywords: Railway station, urban planning, urban transformation, urban development, innovation policy
    Period16 Jun 201618 Jun 2016
    Event titleEuropean Urban Research Association Conference 2016: City lights. Cities and Citizens within/beyond/notwithstanding the crisis.
    Event typeConference
    LocationTorino, Italy