ECHO of the forest

  • City
  • Urban Design
  • Urban Management
Kaarina | Finland

Kaarina is a medium-sized city in Finland, part of the Turku agglomeration in the eastern part of the country. Kaarina has sustainable ambitions and aims to downgrade and partly relocate the transportation network, while facilitating population growth within the city limits and preventing further suburban expansion. The current center of Kaarina is an extensive and car-oriented, sprawling area where a library, city hall, several supermarkets, and apartments are situated. The objective is to transform this center into a forward-looking, vibrant, social, and ecologically conscious city center.

Client: City of Kaarina
Year: 2023
Partner: Raivio Bumann, Finch buildings & Planetary Architecture
Status: Prijsvraag
Location: Kaarina | Finland
Urban planning: ECHO Urban Design | Raivio Bumann
Landscape design: ECHO Urban Design
Architecture: ECHO Urban Design


Socially connected

The concept for the new city center of Kaarina consists of socio-ecological and urban values. Central to this is the social network of well-designed public spaces for pedestrians and cyclists, weaving together several new and existing locations and squares, giving identity to the plan. These human-scale spaces provide orientation and recognition. This framework of outdoor space directly connects with a newly planned light rail on the south side of the plan and the proposed parking hubs on the north side.

Forest Biotope

The dense mixed forests on the south and north side of Kaarina’s center and other green areas surrounding Kaarina will get more breathing and living space. The starting point of the urban concept based on the scale of trees is large-scale natural forest areas. The genuine connection between urban structure and nature creates a pleasant, healthy, experiential and valuable living environment for both people and different animal species. The layered urban nature creates a continuous supporting ecosystem between Kaarina’s forests and sheltered routes for animals.

Urban Village

A freely structured morphology of existing and new buildings will always inspire people to move around and explore the site. A mix of (half) closed buildings blocks, loose buildings in the forest biotope and important public buildings will form a flexible structure towards the future of Kaarina. Human scale architecture where buildings dance around the trees will connect people with nature.

Low-carbon urban construction

The plan’s model of low-carbon urban construction is ambitious but  feasible. The concept creates a framework for a good and sustainable urban life by offering concrete solutions in terms of living, doing business, moving around, as well as urban culture. Phased implementation enables the region to make significant progress towards a sustainable urban structure. In its final dimension, the plan will make Kaarina a leading international example of low carbon and climate wisdom.

Lively city center

The central and most active part of Kaarina’s center is the central square in front of the Kaarina building. From here, the city spreads out in different directions through a network of natural and inviting public spaces and routes. The plan shows meeting places where the interaction of buildings and public space creates a communal ecosystem where people are invited to learn, experiment, try and use the city in a versatile way. The themed squares have their own functions and atmosphere created by their unique structures. The center of Kaarina will become a unique urban village that is airy, green, cozy and inviting. The creative layers of existing and new buildings inspire people to move and get to know the city, where human-scale architecture and nature intertwine.

Sustainable movement

The forest city spreading under the treetops is connected by a communal urban structure, which consists of routes, converging public spaces, public buildings and an extensive movement network that connects public transport to walking and cycling routes. A strong network of open public spaces and pleasant pedestrian axes create a walkable city. The construction of the western bypass will reduce traffic flows on the east side of Kaarina and its surroundings. The traffic hubs and parking centers located on the north side of the area offer connections and flexible parking space. The expanded service network of public transport and the light rail network connecting Kaarina and Turku create a center for sustainable mobility in the center, and the strategic placement of stops creates a natural walking route through the center. The area connects new connections across the area on light traffic routes and on the pedestrian bridge over Uudenmaantie. The apartments and services in the center are protected from traffic noise with the help of landscaping and vegetation that act as a noise barrier.


In the first phase, the framework for the creation of a community-ecological city centre will be created: the amount of nature, housing, public and commercial space as well as smart mobility solutions will be increased. The first phase will be built on city plots around the Kaarina building, where individual buildings can be demolished.

In the second phase, the city center will be strategically expanded with the construction of an expressway and smart parking centers. At the same time, other infrastructure will be organized to meet the needs of the new center. The plots are developed in cooperation with the property owners and the city as part of the city center. The need for parking spaces is covered by the space provided by the parking centers.

In the third phase, the city expands organically in many different directions, forming unique and interesting neighborhoods.


Robbert Jan will be happy to tell you about it.