Housing for urban families

Background: part of the Re-thinking Urban Housing programme by the City of Helsinki
Type: commission, survey, building and courtyard design
Client: A-Kruunu, City of Helsinki (courtyard)
Status: completed 2019
Timeline: 2016–2019
Location: Sompasaari, Helsinki, Finland
Scope of project: 3200 m² housing (40 apartments)
Team: Vesa Humalisto (partner in charge), Hanna Mattila (project architect), Leena Buller (landscape arch. in charge), Anni-Mari Anttola, Nikolas Davies, Lassi Luotonen, Timo Paananen
Research: Antti Lehto, Johanna Lilius, Vesa Humalisto, Sami Heikkinen, Emilia Ellilä
Photography: Anders Portman, Kuvio Oy

Research and resident workshops form the basis for the design of an apartment block.


The site is situated in Sompasaari, the former eastern harbour of Helsinki.

Research as a conceptual base

The design process included a study phase, which helped us to explore the main themes and objectives for architectural design. The study included interviews with residents. The information gathered helped us to perceive how apartments are used in daily life, and which aspects could be improved through architectural design.


The floor plan types and their qualities are based on the findings of the study. Four conceptual drivers actuate an array of practical solutions.

A range of floor plan types

The “heart and multifunctionality” model is based on a large central space for common family activities. Flexibility is enabled by having surrounding rooms opening onto the core area. The apartment can be used in numerous ways without renovation.

In the ”tetris” model, the apartments interlock one above another, creating a broad and flexible main floor which is unusual in row houses.

A communal garden

The communal garden – with shared allotments and play areas – is based on the idea of a village street stretching from the courtyard entrance to the communal space.

The project combines a research-based approach and novel floor plan types with high architectural quality.