Helsinki, Finland – Two previously closed islands off the Helsinki city center shoreline opened to the public in May 2016, vacated from earlier use by the Finnish Defense Forces. Located 2.5 miles – 15 minutes by waterbus – from Helsinki Market Square in the South Harbor, the twin fortress islands of Vallisaari and Kuninkaansaari provide high potential for recreation and tourism, featuring unique nature and deep layers of Finnish cultural history.
The islands’ governing body, Finnish wildlife administration Metsähallitus, and the City of Helsinki seek to develop the largely undeveloped islands for eco-tourism using Smart & Clean technologies and solutions. Together they announced an innovation competition entitled Clean Vallisaari in March 2016, looking for ideas to support the development of the islands and to contribute new insights to the story of the islands.
The City of Helsinki also looked to use the competition as a reference case in its strategic Smart & Clean development plan.
The competitors were asked to provide solutions for water, waste and energy management in ways that respect the nature and cultural values of the islands, add to the appeal of the islands, and enable a minimum environmental footprint of the proposed development, while creating jobs and business opportunities. The organizers looked for proposals from multidisciplinary teams addressing the evaluation criteria “Unique island experience” and “Sustainable technologies and solutions.”
The competition received 12 entries, and the jury announced its decision on September 1, 2016. According to the jury, the proposals included many creative and applicable solutions. The jury named two winners – Precious Vallisaari and Virgin Island – and awarded each with a 12,500-euro prize.
The jury cites Precious Vallisaari for its human-centric approach, which incorporates greenhouses and local food production. Development is based on circular economy (an economy that produces no waste and pollution). The proposal also incorporates the learning experience.
Virgin Island, according to the jury, emphasizes self-sustained systems and presents a convincing basis for creating a showcase for clean technologies. The proposal well incorporates the user experience.
Chairman of the jury, former U.S. Ambassador to Finland (2009–2015) Bruce Oreck comments, “It’s really unique that the development is done in complete harmony with nature.” Ambassador Oreck continues to live and work in Finland.
The Vallisaari and Kuninkaansaari islands are nature reserves that support a wide variety of plant and animal species. They feature fortification structures built during the Swedish rule (–1809) and Russian rule (1809–1917) of Finland. Vallisaari was used to support the Suomenlinna sea fortress, which is today a UNESCO World Heritage site.