This Old Industrial District In Finland Is Transforming Into A Sustainable Village

A former industrial powerhouse, the city of Tampere is reinventing itself to become a center of innovation.

The city of Tampere, Finland, is steeling itself for some pretty radical changes. The second largest municipality in the country, its population of 370,000 isis expected to grow to 480,000 by 2040, with people drawn to its culture and economic opportunities. In anticipation, the city has approved plans to transform a former industrial district just northwest of the city center called Hiedanranta into a new sustainable development, which it’s calling an “innovation bay.”


A collaborative proposal by Schauman & Nordgren Architects and the Swedish urban planning firm Mandaworks was selected as the winner of an international competition for the redesign of the district. The plan, which covers 250 hectares (around one square mile) will make way for more than 25,000 new residents and 10,000 new jobs–while keeping sustainability and innovation at the core of its design.

In a way, Hiedanranta Innovation Bay is a collection of a variety of developments and strategies that cities across the globe are beginning to embrace. The master plan, which will be rolled out in three stages between 2025 and 2045, sets the district on a path toward carbon neutrality while also creatively engaging with its rich history and lakefront location.

Tampere established itself as a major market town and production hub in the 19th century, earning itself the nickname “Manchester of the North.” The Hiedanranta Innovation Bay will embrace that heritage but translate its industrial past into a modern circular economy–a concept which is taking hold across various cities and companies. A Rotterdam-based startup called StoneCycling, for instance, creates building materials out of waste, and a tax break on repair services in Sweden is aiming to divert wasteful consumerism on a broader scale. Though the companies slated for Hiedanranta Innovation Bay are not decided, Patrick Verhoeven, a principal at Mandaworks, says in an email to Co.Exist that the district will look for companies that productively consider how cycles of waste, water, and energy can support the local economy and create jobs.

As the backbone of the reimagined district, the master plan details six distinct yet integrated neighborhoods, bisected by two corridors–one for innovation, and one for recreation. The innovation corridor will run north to south along the western edge of the district and join together office buildings, schools, an eco-pavilion, manufacturing facilities, and public squares. The recreation corridor, which will border the waterfront in the eastern section, will bring residents into closer contact with natural resources, blending an open-plan lakeside path with boat docking and green spaces to facilitate passive stormwater remediation and local cultivation. The design deliberately de-prioritizes getting around by car: Two intersecting tram lines will connect the districts, and the whole area is compact enough, according to Schauman & Nordgren Architects, to constitute a “five-minute city,” navigable by bike or public transit in that short amount of time.

While none of the concepts at play in the Hiedanranta Innovation Bay master plan are completely revolutionary, the proposal represents a potentially fascinating opportunity to watch a whole swatch of innovative concepts unfold in an intentional way. Verhoeven emphasizes that the plan is not a concrete blueprint. Rather, it provides a clear outline, and rules for how the district should infill that framework and develop sustainably in the future. This small district in Tampere is setting a cohesive benchmark for what a modern city could look like and what it should be aiming to do, and Verhoeven hopes that the plans inspire future developments in other cities.


About the author

Eillie Anzilotti is an assistant editor for Fast Company's Ideas section, covering sustainability, social good, and alternative economies. Previously, she wrote for CityLab.