Aalto Cultural Fund

Designed to boost art & culture in Aalto, transforming it from a transitory hub into a permanent home. The Aalto Cultural Fund, composed of innovative models, service touchpoints and decentralized processes is unlike traditional funds. Enabling communities to participate in democratic fiscal spending; enabling inhabitants to craft their own city.
Valeska Noemi Mangel
Kristof van der Fluit
Benedetta Locatelli
Aalto University Architecture Department, Aalto University Campus and Real Estate (ACRE)
Aalto City as a Service - Platforms to co-create value.
Aalto University aims to transform the campus to accommodate their new urban strategy. By 2025 Otaniemi area will see a rise in 7,500 residents and 20,000 new jobs. Our Role as service designers in a mixed collaboration with architects and the Board of Aalto University Campus Development, is to co-design strategies and service-layer visions. Our team focused on the business & economic renewal of the campus. Specifically opening the Aalto campus to the city and turning it into a lively place and community.
Interested in talking to the designers of this project?
Set up quick conversation
Design Research
Working remotely we were seeking experimental methods for our design research to capture the spirit, culture and socio-economic environment of Otaniemi (Aalto). Our research highlighted the unique dynamic between Helsinki and Otaniemi. Symbolising a ‘big brother, little brother’ relationship, building the “Tech House” of Finland and Europe. We designed a kit of cultural probes to get a sense of the area from afar and sent it to students and professionals. We learned that Otaniemi is widely appreciated for its nature but has no nightlife or charm. The founders of Aalto University told us stories of international students being intimidated by Otaniemi's “shocking darkness and emptiness”. To translate our analysis of the area, we collaborated with local artists on a short film. A joint language was found through poetry and film. This served as a prototype to validate the interest of creatives to shape the cultural environment of Aalto.

Economic and Business Renewal

Our brief specialised on Economic and Business Renewal in Otaniemi. As we started our research we quickly realised that there was a limited network of local businesses in the area. When talking to locals we learned that there was an overwhelming need for liveliness. Instead the ecosystem felt like an airport due to its flux generated by varying students, start-ups and commuters. But the vision for the city is a residential area with an innovation core. Making people stay, while fuelling creativity. Trying to combine the needs of both visions we analysed the fundamentals of resilience, creativity and liveliness. These characteristics should become the nourishing ground for businesses and residents to settle and innovate naturally. And we found that culture is not only inspiration and entertainment, but delivers a steady pillar to grow identity and build fictional pathways for businesses to be resilient, which is a Finnish mindset called Sisu.

Service Journey of the ‘Artists-in-Residence’

Before: Awareness, Application, Selection, The ‘Artists-in-Residence Programme’ begins with an Open-Call, supported by a seamless application portal. Designed to attract international talent; the artists are selected for a 6-month residency. During: Arrival, Live + Work, Co-operatives Upon arrival, our artists are treated as family; they are welcomed with a ceremonial reception where they meet esteemed partners, honored guests and fellows. This equips them with a wide network. Whereafter, the ‘Fund’ (through partnership with ACRE Real Estate Board) assigns them studio space. As a cooperative, the artists give back to the community, through workshops, seminars and exchange of their knowledge. After: Exhibitions, Showcasing Platform. The programme ends with the ‘Aalto Cultural Week’ (bringing together current student initiatives); a festival celebrating the creative capacity of Aalto with the world, in coordination with Helsinki Design Week. Providing our fellows a platform to showcase and opportunities for future growth. Stimulating future creative generations to come.

Decentralised Model
A crucial aspect to fulfill the participatory mission is the Fund’s decentralised models of operation. A vital component of the model, is the decentralised Commission. It functions as the democratic representative jury, selecting annual submitted project proposals. The Commission consists of local residents, student reps, local business partners and a curation expert, such as the Art Coordinator for Aalto. A future evolution of this Commission, can see the model operate on a strategic level. Allowing for democratic fiscal spending of its independent Fund on collective art and cultural missions for the area. With the vision to position Aalto as a living lab for 21st century decentralised economics.
Theory of Change
The main vision of our service is in the long-term transformation: Where we’ve seen temporary life-cycles before, the Aalto Cultural Fund now extends stays of students and invites an international audience to the area. Our Service engages the community and builds it at the same time. Almost as a side note the beneficiaries grow culture through new works being integrated in Otaniemis landscape. The smaller retail and showcase opportunities will eventually grow into permanent businesses and institutions. Beyond these new businesses will be attracted by the innovative community. This again attracts residents, who can enjoy their impact on the transformation and see their own decisions with the commission come to life, while they build their lives. All together they can shape their neighbourhood by deciding on cultural events, designs to purchase and exhibits to see. Giving Otaniemi the liveliness, generating a global identity, and ultimately making people stay.
special thanks
Interested in talking to the designers of this project?
Set up quick conversation
No items found.