Sompasaari courtyard gardens

Type: residential landscape design, deck gardens
Client: Lapti Oy (Diana), Kalasataman palvelu 2 Oy (Venus)
Status: completed
Timeline: 2015–2021
Location: Sompasaari, Helsinki
Scope of project: 1700 m² (Diana) + 1780 m² (Venus)
Team: Leena Buller / Anni-Mari Anttola (project landscape architect), Anna-Kaisa Aalto, Antti Lehto, Vesa Humalisto, Lassi Luotonen, Valtteri Hautsalo
Photography: Marc Goodwin, Martin Sommerschield, INARO

Urban community spirit through courtyard diversity.


The block courtyards are located in Sompasaari, on the site of an old cargo port, now enjoying a rebirth as maritime residential area. Typical to the area are enclosed blocks of variable brick masonry architecture. The courtyard gardens are constructed on elevated decks above residential parking facilities.

Venus block

The communal courtyards are based on ideas explored in the block’s ‘Urban families’ project, which have been brought to fruition in the final landscape designs. A variety of activities is on offer for a range of different age-groups, clustered around the meandering courtyard walkway. INARO has also designed two of the surrounding four apartment buildings with their front gardens, and the small street-side Hansalaituri urban space.

Diana block

This residential block, also designed by INARO, combines differing forms of habitation and has a rich social environment as a result. The courtyard’s central area is devoted to communal interaction, private apartment terraces are situated around the perimeter of the garden. Also incorporated into the designs are the narrow street-side landscaped areas and small public piazzi at the external corners of the plot.

Encounters on the garden path

The predominant feature of Venus block’s courtyard is the wide garden walkway, a focus for residents and communal outdoor activity. The open central area has a games lawn, shared allotments and a sculptured timber recreational structure aligned to the play area.

Protection from the sea wind

In the port area, weather conditions are often harsh. The enclosed blocks shield their inner gardens from the wind, providing an agreeable micro-climate for occupants. The orientation of yard’s recreation areas make maximum use of the warmth of the sun. Many small trees have been planted which will naturally enhance the garden space as they approach maturity.

Greenery for a new neighbourhood

Diverse and abundant planting plays a central role in this compact urban environment, creating an experience for the residents which changes with the seasons, and privacy and visual screening for the ground-floor apartments. Flowering trees, perennial beds and the allotments with their seasonal produce encourage exploration and participation.

Soft counterbalance

Both of the courtyards’ unifying theme embodies a soft curvature in contrast with the surrounding perpendicular building volumes. Particular attention has been given to the boundary between private and communal spaces. A feature of Diana’s garden are the ground floor apartment terraces, bounded by curving walls and planting.

Green courtyards breathe life into a compact maritime neighbourhood.