Helsinki Market Square

Helsinki, Finland

Contributed by Project for Public Spaces

Helsinki’s top waterfront draw combines an indoor market hall with a large public plaza.

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Why It Works

Helsinki’s top waterfront draw combines an indoor market hall with a large public plaza which is itself home to an open air market. Easily accessible by foot, tram, or ferry, its location in the center of bay enhances the sense of destination. There are no major roads and hardly any cars to be found, creating an ideal setting for human-scaled buildings and small parks, where anyone can sit down and look out over the scene. The boats coming and going complement the market bustle, making for a public space that approaches perfection.

As PPS likes say about all great squares, this spot reaches out like an octopus, drawing people toward it—both from the city streets and from the waterborne routes of the bay. The most remarkable “tentacle” is the esplanade that leads here from the heart of the city. Walking down to the shore on this path is a finely paced, tantalizing journey—a veritable study in how to take advantage of a waterfront setting by building anticipation and heightening the senses on the route there.

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