The Key to Safe Streets: Five Cities Humanizing Street Design
Case Studies 

Please note that these Hall of Shame nominations were written in a moment in time (most over a decade ago) and likely have since changed or even been transformed. If the above entry is now great, or still not so great, go ahead and comment below on how it has evolved or nominate it as a great place.

*Nominee 

Senate Square

Helsinki

Finland

Contributed by 
Maija Merimaa
Project for Public Spaces
 on 
November 30, 2006
December 14, 2017

Square, and a staircase adjacent to it

What makes it Great?

Why it doesn't work?

Senate Square has been the main square of Helsinki since the 17th century. It was transformed into its current form in the early 19th century, when Russian Tsar Alexander II, moved the capital of Finland from Turku to Helsinki. The buildings on the four sides of the square represent the four powers of the state as conceived at the time: senate, church, university and commerce. The old merchant houses are now mainly occupied by city offices, but there is also a nice caf_, and a bazaar. The Square itself is empty except for a statue of Tsar Alexander II in the middle. The greatness of the place doesnÍt lay so much in the Senate Square itself, but rather in the staircase leading to the cathedral on the north side. The staircase is as wide as the square itself and on a sunny day it is crowded with people.

Access & Linkages

The square is located in central Helsinki. The main shopping street _ Aleksanterinkatu _passes the square on the south side. A small, cozy street _ Sofiankatu _ on the south side of the square connects Senate Square to Market Square by the sea. As the main building of the University of Helsinki is on one the west side of the church, the square is linked tightly to University area. The square is accessible by tram and bike.

Comfort & Image

Most of the buildings along the Senate Square are drawn by one of the most famous Finnish architects, C.L. Engel. They represent neoclassicism of the early 19th century. As the sea is only one block south from the square, the view from top of the staircase looks above the roofs directly to the sea. Although the streets surrounding the square are also accessible by car, the traffic is almost absent.

Uses & Activities

The square is not completely empty _ during the summer it has an ice cream stand which is a popular activity. Many people buy a cone and a sit on the stairs eating it. The emptiness of the square makes it also a place where it is easy to arrange outdoor concerts and other programs, and different events occasionally take place on the Square.

Sociability

The square itself isnÍt necessarily a social place, only tourists stop there to take pictures, while other people usually only cross it. But the staircase is definitely a social place _ students go there to negotiate about their group projects, couples relax there, tourists take a break and rest their feet. But it is also comfortable for solitary sunbathers or students studying for an exam.

How Light?

How Quick?

How Cheap?

History & Background

Related Links & Sources

Senate Square
Senate Square
Senate Square
Senate Square
Senate Square
Senate Square
Senate Square
Senate Square

*Please note that these Hall of Shame nominations were written in a moment in time (most over a decade ago) and likely have since changed or even been transformed. If the above entry is now great, or still not so great, go ahead and comment below on how it has evolved or nominate it as a great place.

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