By Regitze Marianne Hess
Douglas Gordon addressing students of the IFHP Summer School in 2018. Flying Carpet, Helsinki. Photo courtesy of Regitze Hess.
Summertime for summer students is seemingly a fleeting moment in time for short intense relationships and urban charettes. The IFHP Summer School has proven to have to be a bastion. A summer school that has a track record of more than 25 iterations. As such a mainstay in IFHP’s century-long existence. Perhaps interrupted by the COVID pandemic, but in my mind more relevant than ever to reconvene in Finland in the future! August in the North can be magnificent. Finland has a lot to offer when comes to design on the many scales pertaining to the built environment and strategies for a sustainable future.
IFHP is a federation sustained by people who are dedicated to shaping and sharing strategies and practices pertaining to housing and planning and directly relating to architecture and urbanism. IFHP Summer School very much hinges on the passion and dedication of the people who have made it happen: Panu Lehtovuori and his colleagues, Tuomas Ilmavirta, Laura Berger and Dalia Bernal Milián, just to name a few. Panu has an incredible network of colleagues and contacts who time and again opened their cities and their doors. A big shout out to all of the institutions, first and foremost Tampere University of Technology and Aalto University, and many municipalities involved over the years.
I have had the pleasure of representing IFHP at the summer schools in 2016, 2018 and 2019. Each time enjoying another facet of Helsinki, which is a fixed point in the programme, where Douglas Gordan, who has been a longstanding part of IFHP and SFHP, has time and again treated us tours of architecture and urban interventions new and old. Some highlights for me have been: lunching in a canteen by Alvar Aalto; the transformation of the Arabia site and surroundings; redevelopment of Helsinki’s South Harbour; and riding the Artic tram.
Student presentations on the final day of the IFHP Summer School in 2015 at the Cable Factory in Helsinki. Photo courtesy of Regitze Hess.
The summer school is exceptional in that each cohort works with real challenges on real sites for different cities and communities throughout Finland. Specifically, I have had the pleasure of learning how cohorts tackled challenges of: connecting the city centre of Jyväskylä across a train line to the waterfront; activating a large-scale landscape of the historic fortress of Kotka and how to integrate the site into broader geography, for example as part of a cycling and hiking network. Both scenarios with site-specific challenges but offering takeaways that are relevant and transferable to other situations. I know that many other cohorts have done great work in many other places.
I have been struck by is the range of participants from different places around the world, and in different stages of their career – as academics and practitioners – all looking to expand their horizons and experience. Each session has involved a lot of good work, and in my impression, very much appreciated by the local stakeholders, who have been involved in posing the challenge at hand and in dialogue and crits.
Personally, I have very much enjoyed: the informal discussions on parallels and contrasts between places in the north – of North America, more specifically Canada, and the Nordics, with Finland as a case in point; the evenings when the nights still have a shimmer of grey – not going totally black; the enthusiasm of Panu and his co-organizers, e.g. Laura and now Dalia, and all of the participants.
Jyväskylä cityscape photographed during the 2016 IFHP Summer School. Photo courtesy of Regtize Hess.
The return of the summer school is more relevant than ever, offering an excellent forum for addressing shifting patterns in work and life that have come about with the COVID pandemic. There are many places throughout the world where people have sought out of the big city and retreated to the countryside, provided that there is the infrastructure to work, study and carry on daily life.
What better place to study this, than Finland, a society with a vast topography that has long dealt with connectivity – home to some of the origins of mobile phones – for remote environments.
The IFHP Summer School thanks Regitze Hess for her contribution to this blog. Hess is a longstanding part of the International Federation for Housing and Planning (IFHP), working with IFHP in various capacities since 2005.