THE ANGLE By Kari Kauniskangas The writer is CEO of YIT Back to the original urban idea Urbanisation is a global phenomenon which keeps advancing also in Europe. The urbanisation rate is expected to climb from the present 73 % to 82 % by the year 2050. While elsewhere in the world, it is especially the cities with millions of residents that keep growing, in Europe the majority of people will live in cities with less than 500,000 inhabitants. D emands for a quality urban environment keep increasing everywhere. One element in an enjoyable urban environment is the every-day dynamic, meaning easily accessible public and private services and highly functional public transportation. All of these elements support also the aims of sustainable development. In fact, the environmental problems of the world will be solved in the cities. The transition in the workplace, which is taking people from the factory floor to the studios, will mean that various functions will vacate the current industrial areas and move back to the city. Many tasks which require special expertise will break away from a designated workplace and work will be done in different places with the capability to inspire – for example, cafés, parks, leisure apartments and, of course, offices which support the various phases of the specialist’s work process better. Also the future residential demands are different, as family types and lifestyles become increasingly diversified. It’s not about the type of housing, square metres or ownership model so much anymore; the key issues here are functionality and compatibility of environment and lifestyle. Some people just want a “pit-stop” near downtown for sleep and maintenance, others want to invest 40 Nordicum in the home’s aesthetic appeal and are hoping that the surrounding environment is in tune with this. Add to this, the decline of car traffic due to improving public transport, new light traffic options, the sharing economy and robot cars, and we are on our way back to the original idea of the city: everything is closeby and accessible. The Internet economy is changing the structure of retail in a radical manner and shopping centres will become, more and more, spaces of social interaction where showrooms allow people to get acquainted with the products and where also public services have an increasing presence. Public services are a good fit for shopping centres due to accessibility issues and rising costconsciousness in the public sector. Retail, cultural services, public services and residential all come together in new kinds of mixed-use projects; the Tripla Centre project, carried out by YIT in Pasila (the second city centre of Helsinki), is one example of this approach. In Europe, the flights between cities have been reasonably functional, but now they are being challenged by convenient, fast train connections which link cities, and, gradually, also countries. From the perspective of the specialised workforce, this means that there are more job opportunities within reach, especially as both mobile and remote working become more common. In the future, the European mid-size cities will seek competitive edge via the quality of residential arrangements and services. A recent study analysed the reasons behind specialists and managers moving someplace else in 13 European urban regions (ACRE project). The study showed that in many cities (e.g. Helsinki, Milan, Birmingham and Barcelona) the most important reason for moving had to do with personal networks – meaning, among other things, friends, family and education history. As connections improve, also cities of relatively small size can become homes for these internationally minded professionals, as long as there are existing networks for them to tap into. In the final analysis, it is the consumer that is the end customer in all business. Responding to the diverging needs of the consumers – involving, say, retail, services, living or the urban habitat – calls for a markedly better collaboration and joint development between companies, urban designers, public service providers and users. Traditional planning or production orientation will not be able to create places with the desired appeal.