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  • Joonatan Hamari

Experience, the foundation of place

(brief references at the end of the blog)

1. What are places and why does their perspective deserve more attention?

What is your favorite place in your hometown? What other places around the world are meaningful to you or have impressed you? Most likely, they have stood out from their surroundings in ways that have made you linger: beauty, coziness, special atmosphere, representation of your own values, recreation, people, the feeling of a secret hiding place or a fading moment spent with another. It can be an individual or shared spatial experience. On the other hand, a special sense of place is conveyed, which turns a hollow space into a place – a spatial home of the meanings set in place by people and communities (cf. Tuan 1977). Their extreme opposites, misplaces (Augé 1992), are usually presented as the buffer zone in the middle of the perimeter formed by the highway junctions.

Urbanization, globalization and the shift of focus of societal development to efficiency and functionality in recent decades have changed places around the world to be more similar to each other (Relph 1976). Every city has a wide range of identical services from McDonald's (Ritzer 1993) to H&M; in public spaces, you can experience the same – often hostile in design – park benches (Koskela 2009) as well as the tile squares and concrete fields that are problematic in terms of the city's resilience and amenity. What makes the development interesting is the solutions’ inefficiency in temperature regulation, noise cancelling and stormwater management, and the fact that people prefer green, semi-intimate and lively places. Established catalog solutions can be effective and good in some contexts, but how well do they take into account the differences in their environment of application, the time of implementation and the values ​​of their users and different societies? How do they tend to the pressure to specialize and position in the competitive field? How do they arouse local pride and build emotional ties to one’s hometown? Along with these special themes, strategic efforts to densify the community structure easily ignore the importance of the quality and efficiency of public space - for example, approximately 26% of the core area of ​​the The Nook project is public outdoor space.

Note: Inaccurate, is based on raster analysis of the city plan classification.

2. What is place design and what does The Nook project do?

In various parts of the world, a multidisciplinary movement has emerged to strengthen special, people-oriented, multi-vocal and sustainable urban space. Placemaking is a developing field and a spectrum of methods that can be used to solve even small-scale challenges related to public space and its design, especially in suburbs and city centers (Wyckoff 2014.) There is a fairly broad consensus in the field about the importance of doing things together: people value and grow a sense of ownership towards things that they have been involved in creating. Different actors and cities emphasize different forms of participation and trends in placemaking. As in community planning (Hytönen 2016), the cultural and regulatory differences of states and regions must also be taken into account in placemaking, which is why different operating models are suitable for different cities and places. 

Among others, based on the starting points mentioned above, we feel it is important to gather and share information about how residents, communities and professionals can work on their living environment in a more direct way compared to formal voting, citizen initiatives or commenting at planning meetings in Oulu. In The Nook, several place making projects are implemented with European partners as well as people from Oulu and other parts of Finland. Different approaches and operating models are tried out in the projects. The end result is:

  • more versatile ways of seeing the possibilities of shared space

  • better or more functional places for both residents and visitors

  • mapped process to ease future implementation

  • international cooperation

  • multidisciplinary cooperation

  • a new type of micro-monumentalism that highlights the diversity of Oulu's values

  • the legacy of the European Capital of Culture year experienced in urban space

In 2024 we’re working part-time on cooperative partnerships for single nooks, financing, benchmarking, place research, a participation plan and permits. In 2025 and 2026 there will be workshops, talks and the openings of nooks. Other special themes of placemaking will be discussed in coming parts of the Kaupunkimme blog series.


Yi-Fu Tuan 1977: Space and Place.

Marc Augé 1992: Non-Places: An Introduction to Supermodernity.

Edward Relph 1976: Place and placelessness.

Georg Ritzer 1993: The McDonaldization of Society.

Hille Koskela 2009: Pelkokierre: pelon politiikka, turvamarkkinat ja kamppailu kaupunkitilasta.

Mark A. Wyckoff 2014: Definition of placemaking: Four Different Types. <>

Jonne Hytönen 2016: The problematic relationship of communicative planning theory and the Finnish legal culture. Planning Theory 15:3. p. 223-238.

The blog is written by Joonatan Hamari, the project manager of the Nook.

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