Critical reflection on the network city toolbox – Alvar Aalto’s Kokemäenjoki regional plan in the education of planners

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This article considers the pedagogical dimensions of a particular lecture. The aim of the lecture was to evoke the students to reflect their personal relation to the actual object of planning, the real urban area, by using Alvar Aalto’s Kokemäenjoki valley regional plan from 1942 as an example. The plan was the kick-off for Finnish regional planning that started in the end of 1950s, but it also contains elements that have interesting similarities with the discourses on network cities of the 1990s and 2000s. These common elements fall into the following themes: 1) new urban form and new urban qualities, 2) increasing mobility and need for integration, and 3) complexity and self-organisation. The most astonishing part in Aalto’s plan is his discovery of a “completely new social step that is higher than the concept of the city”, as he stated it.

Despite the extensive statistical background research Aalto made for his plans, his basic approach was always qualitative by nature, whereas contemporary digital-based analysis and planning tools tend to direct the approach more to quantitative and system-theoretic spheres. Aalto’s working method favoured sensory perception, putting the real-world elements first and letting socio-cultural, technological, economical, aesthetic and landscape dimensions intermingle in synthesis. The network city approach, in turn, is typically based on different modelling methods and related conceptual apparatus. Both approaches are typical and justified regarding their historical periods. The question is: do our present urban regions have some emerging qualities that should be recognised? Can it be done with the existing concepts and tools we use in our education of architects and planners?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCurious pedagogy
Subtitle of host publicationReflections on urban planning education
EditorsMinna Chudoba, Gareth Griffiths
Place of PublicationTampere
ISBN (Electronic)978-952-03-3007-1
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Publication typeA3 Book chapter

Publication series

ISSN (Electronic)0359-7105


  • planner education, network city, Alvar Aalto, Kokemäenjoki, regional planning, urban planning.

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1


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