From Closed to Open: Turning a Campus into a City

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Antti Ahlava (Finland)

Vice President (Campus Development) Antti Ahlava, PhD, architect SAFA, is full professor of Emergent Design Methodologies and the leader of Group X at Aalto University, Finland, and has been a visiting professor in Århus, Copenhagen and Vienna. He was recently Head of Architecture Department at Aalto University and a visiting fellow at Harvard GSD. Antti has expertise in urban cultures and interdisciplinarity in architecture and likes creative chaos. He leads the campus design and development process of Aalto City. As a practicing architect, his career includes the transformation of Helsinki City Hall Quarters, the new Aviapolis Centre and the regeneration of Helsinki Art Museum. He has won 20 prizes in international architecture competitions, including Guggenheim Helsinki in 2016.

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In this interactive session, leading architect – and Professor of Emergent Design Methodologies at Finland’s Aalto University – Antti Ahalava examines best practice in creating an open campus that encourages innovation and close collaboration with its local community.

He argues that in order to collaborate effectively with external society, universities should link innovation and start-up activities with partners, and campus development with mix-programming, urban activism, ground-floor openness, and liveability… as the innovation hub of Aalto University exemplifies. Currently, Aalto City in Otaniemi, in the Helsinki metropolitan area, is one of the largest innovation parks in Europe and is part of a metropolitan network of innovation locations in Laajalahti Bay.

The traditional university campus follows a hermetic, closed, cloister model. This concept isn’t ideal for contemporary demands for open innovation and for a creative living and working environment. As an experimental laboratory for collaborative culture, Aalto University is turning its campus into Aalto City – a collaboration hub mixing internal and external uses and user groups together. Companies, institutions and creative communities work there in new cross-disciplinary thematic platforms together with university units, discarding old spatial faculty and school models. The special facilities of the university are shared with partners. Innovation and start-up activities form a cluster, where students, mentors and the university mix.