By Patricia Broas
In the summer of 2019, the City Planning Department of Kotka was privileged to participate in the 25th IFHP Urban Planning and Design Summer School.
For two weeks, the 19 summer school participants became acquainted with urban planning in Kotka and the case of Kyminlinna fortress. The now closed fortress was open for the students to explore its possibilities. The aim of focusing the course on Kyminlinna was to bring out the qualities of this great area and to enliven public discussion about its uses.
Kyminlinna is the largest inland fortress in Finland and the second most important historical military monument after Suomenlinna. The construction time of the current bastion is 1803-08. The site also contains the remains of Suvorov’s fortress from 1791. The Russian army used Kyminlinna after the Finnish War. After Finland’s independence, the Finnish army used the fortress until 2005. Kyminlinna, with its historical structures and special nature, is heavily protected. It is also part of the Kotka National Urban Park.
Kyminlinna from the air. Image: City of Kotka.
After the Finnish army left the Kyminlinna fortress in 2010, the area was locked down and left largely undisturbed. The government of Finland owns the area and does not have any further uses for it. Kyminlinna has been kept locked for safety reasons. The old walls are unsafe and the ground is not checked for safe passage. The citizens and the City of Kotka would like to see the fascinating fortress open and in the use of citizens, businesses and tourists. The question that remained all these years is: how should this be done?
The City Planning Department wanted a fresh perspective on the planning of Kyminlinna. In addition, the historical and natural values needed to be taken into account while drawing out plans for a vivid and active area. The aim of the City is to make the area available to citizens and a functioning part of the city. However, there were no fixed ideas or specific uses planned beforehand so the task was quite open.
The task is to develop a concept, where the fort of Kyminlinna is open for the public and a destination for travellers. The area should be a live part of the surrounding city life as well as a part of the region. The historical structures and nature needs to be preserved and preferably an essential part of the concept. Building on the area is limited because of historical structures, nature areas and ground conditions. New buildings and structures needed for the concept may be proposed. The concept should include sustainable businesses that are involved with the area or are functioning on the site. Businesses ideally provide services for travellers and locals and create new use for the existing historical buildings.
All student proposals showed respect and appreciation for the nature that is abundantly present inside and around the fortress. The teams saw the areas’ potential for recreation and as a travel destination and there was no question about it: the importance of restoring the fortress is undeniable.
At the end of the course, the City Planning Department and the IFHP Summer School organized a presentation event to which the press, decision-makers, museum staff, and city officials were invited. All five teams had great presentations that included many fresh ideas and well thought out projects. Presentations were well received by the audience that no doubt will keep the ideas in mind for future developments.
The participants of the summer school made five different proposals for the future of Kyminlinna. According to them, development could be playful and it should include the residents of Kotka. There are many interesting places in Kyminlinna, that can be used communally even without large investments. In the longer term, the area should be seen as a centre for ethical short-distance tourism and an important milestone on the so-called King’s Road that stretches from Turku to Vyborg.
Kyminlinna – The Green Renaissance. Project by Paulina Torres, Roisin Moyne, Sebastian Apitz, 2019.
Now, almost two years after the Summer School, the presented ideas are still vivid. A nature survey that was done in the area showed that the students’ appreciation for nature was well-founded. The surveyors were amazed at the large number of rare species and birds they found there. The planning of the area continues and will take some more time, because of the need to reconcile all the different needs and values. The ideas still live on and the citizens of Kotka are eager to see them realized.
Kyminlinna – Details Embedded in Nature. Project by Alina Yagafarova, Alan Lovekamp, Vitaly Matveev , and Yulia Korneeva, 2019.
Via email, we asked Patricia to comment about Kotka once being an important port and how that has changed and if the National Urban Park, planned and developed in Kotka, had been a way to address that change and the challenges that came about. She answered:
Kotka still has a port (though not in the city centre as before) that is important to the city. It’s the largest universal port in Finland. Regarding the National Urban Park, it is certainly a way to address change; it’s function is to preserve cultural, historical, and natural heritage.