Parkly – from an idea to a platform for urban innovation

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    Dec 2021
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This time, last year, we’ve decided to work on a new venture to turn the findings and insights from our placemaking and urban design projects into something more scalable. We wanted to provide a solution, which jumps over the hurdles of creating real change and empowers the people. We fast tracked Parkly’s journey inside startup accelerator programs which for us connected strongly to design-thinking: how can we do or design things differently? How to use our creative skills to process the challenges with a holistic approach? 

Our key question was: how can we make the improvement of public places as easy as possible for cities, architecture offices and developers, or whoever takes a proactive part in creating better cities and understands the importance of public space? We concluded there is a need for more flexibility, for more temporary natured projects, more scalability for experiments which can start small and scale up. As well as urban prototyping and circularity to move on from linear production to “pocket parks as a service”. We firmly believe that the importance of urban green which supports biodiversity has many proven positive impacts on lively, inviting public spaces. Solutions are needed at all levels and low threshold implementations make the change seem more possible on a larger scale too. 

This year we completed almost ten projects, ranging from turning grey public squares greener together for Vuotalo, working for safer school routes together with WSP & City of Helsinki, inviting neighbours to a pocket park with Forum Virium, carrying out a community-driven placemaking study with Forum Virium and City of Helsinki and turning a street scape greener and more fun with a modular parklet for Capperi. We have spoken to residents, developers, city planners, gardeners, passers by and entrepreneurs and gathered a lot of information, insights and inspiring place-stories.  

Our findings support the goals we set ahead of us: more urban green and welcoming places where people can connect with each other; testing big ideas in small places to fastrack sustainable urban change; forming collaborative platforms for place-innovations – anywhere in the world. 

This approach is already showing results: connecting ideas, finding synergies and tackling common challenges with like-minded and value driven individuals and companies has already created many innovative solutions. For instance data-driven tactical urbanism with CHAOS, pollination stations to connect to beehive-services together with Humblebee. And Spotti and Parkly will together create a modular park for skateboarding sites for all ages. Parkly’s first international collaborators are in the Netherlands with Bureau Buitendienst and Frey & Frey in Switzerland. Our newly developed digital tool ParklyCreate, helps to co-design, visualise and share the designs in our application and further in an augmented reality setting. So you can design your visions whether you are in Helsinki, Zürich, Groningen or Stockholm. 

Throughout the year, we have also had the chance to share our solution and open up to discussions and feedback in interesting conferences and seminars worldwide: these temporary online communities are a great source of inspiration and peer knowledge. For this reason, we also organised events such as AfterCovid.City Helsinki together with Placemaking Europe and AfterCovid.City -networks and Level Up – Accelerating Sustainable City Solutions together with CHAOS. More events for next year are already in the making, focussing around the topics of people’s participation and sustainability. We keep you posted.

Next year there will be more “Parkly-pixels” creating green corners and pocket parks in different cities, while most projects continue and expand. For example we collaborate with Aalto University Campus to create a pocket park and a meeting spot which is connected to the participatory budgeting project for the students by ACRE (Aalto University Campus & Real Estate). 

We will also continue our forest protection programme with our mission of adding more green in urban environments and protecting forests with the help of Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation. For every Parkly-module produced, we donate to protect 20 sqm of old heritage forest totalling 1240 sqm this year alone. 

We would like to send a heartfelt thank you to all of our collaborators, clients, mentors, supporters and participants in 2021. We keep on innovating and looking forward to seeing what the new year has in store!