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Helsinki Summer Streets City of Helsinki
2023 | Helsinki |  🇫🇮

Co-Designing the Helsinki Summer Streets

In January 2023, the City of Helsinki organized two participatory workshops using UrbanistAI, involving a Citizen Committee and local entrepreneurs. 

This initiative was part of the city's plan to close three central streets to car traffic during the summer months, aiming to gather public and business input on potential street uses.

Every year the City of Helsinki transforms several streets into pedestrian zones. This initiative aims to enhance pedestrian enjoyment through various street improvements, including urban greenery, resting spots, and open spaces. In previous years, an architectural firm managed the entire design process. In2023, the city committed to engaging stakeholders from a wide demographic spectrum: women, children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. This inclusive process required creating a space where users with varying technical abilities could meaningfully participate and contribute to the city's design. By utilizing the participatory design platform UrbanistAI, the City of Helsinki expanded the opportunity for local community members to engage, imagine, and bring their ideas to life.

To facilitate a more inclusive design process, UrbanistAI worked with Helsinki’s city planners, WSP and Sweco to run two community engagement events held in January 2023. These events specifically targeted two key groups: a diverse Citizen Committee of 20 members and a local business owners.
During these two-hour interactive workshops, attendees were divided into small, moderator-led groups of 4–5 people. Their task was to generate a variety of alternative visions for several predefined sections of the Helsinki Summer Streets. After this co-creation stage, participants voted on the proposed visions, resulting in a shortlist of the most favored future scenarios. The workshops concluded with a collaborative dialogue between city planners, architecture offices and participants.

A notable addition to this co-design process was the joint exploration of the potential and practicality of the visualized scenarios. This shared understanding was invaluable for shaping the eventual design of the Summer Streets project. Utilizing a Generative AI platform, participants were able to render realistic depictions of their designs, facilitating consensus on the final outcomes.


The transformation of Helsinki’s central streets in the summer of 2023, driven by the community's vision, showcases the power of participatory planning in urban design. 
Through UrbanistAI, the City of Helsinki not only redefined these urban spaces but also reinforced the importance of involving community stakeholders in shaping their living environments. 
The realization of workshop ideas into actual urban design marked a significant achievement in collaborative city planning.

The workshops provided an innovative platform for residents and local business owners to actively contribute to re-designing their urban environment.
UrbanistAI facilitated a collaborative and democratic design process, integrating diverse perspectives into the city's planning.
The direct inclusion of feedback and ideas from these sessions into the final street design showcased a practical application of participatory urban planning.