Otaniemi Walks: facilitating sustainable campus

Otaniemi Walks: facilitating sustainable campus

Otaniemi Walks project explored how to support Otaniemi campus in becoming the sustainable campus Aalto University and its property company envision it to be. The project made use of a process-based narrative grounded on non-oppositional logic, systems thinking and a transactional approach, taking into account the mutual impact of environment and human agents. The project started with an investigation into the history and present situation of Otaniemi land-use through expert and stakeholder interviews. The end result was a storytelling installation facilitating the Otaniemi campus area stakeholders to build upon nature as a common ground in developing a sustainable campus. The project was conducted by Elisa Andretti as her master’s thesis. The study was done in collaboration with Aalto Built Environment Laboratory (ABE) and the installation utilized the ABE platform.


The study describes the historical developments of the design of the campus in Otaniemi. Alvar Aalto’s original plan for Otaniemi entailed a pedestrian experience: a walk from the University to the sea shore. The plan had to be altered to cater for car traffic. Parking lots and tarmac roads disrupted the original vision of movement and space. Still the nature as a theme emerges as important from the interviews of the stakeholders. One conclusive suggestion of the thesis is that the nature in Otaniemi could function as a common ground when designing a sustainable future.
The study produced a facilitating tool in the form of a visual story exploring a new medium of storytelling. The voices from the interviews, theory and observations were weaved into an immersive installation in 3D. The installation consists of hand drawn sketches which aim to keep focus on atmosphere and main themes. The sketches were then combined using the Unity game engine to produce 3D scenes. This unique technique was developed during the process. The artistic and immersive experience the technique enables helps people with different backgrounds in selecting and focusing on common topics for discussion and decision making without the disturbance that may arise from early detailing and photorealistic imaging. The objective was to bring forward common traits of the individual experience on campus, to make a shared vision on the future of Otaniemi campus and township emerge, while filtering out details that are not relevant on a strategic level.


Viewing Otaniemi Walks installation
Viewing Otaniemi Walks installation


In the future, universities, communities and businesses alike have to start taking sustainability better into consideration. This study indicates both theoretical and concrete ways how to approach this task. What is more, many businesses function in multi-stakeholder environments and as a part of an ecosystem. This study can shed a light into ways how to find common ground in the context of developing an urban area collaboratively.

The systems view in Otaniemi Walks
The Otaniemi Walks process. Image by Elisa Andretti.


Future Opportunities

There could be future potential in using 3D hand drawn graphics as a base for discussing plans on a strategic level with stakeholders in land-use planning. Also in general, applying the methods of storytelling and systems thinking in facilitating processes of stakeholder collaboration in urban planning would be fruitful to explore further.

RYM Program

Energizing Urban Ecosystems (EUE)


Aalto Built Environment Laboratory

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