Vaasa is an exceptionally urban city seen through an architect’s eyes

BUSINESS AS USUAL: CREATIVE BUSINESS, HEIKKI AITOAHO / AITOAHO & VILJANEN

Ever since Heikki Aitoaho was little, he has had a clear career plan: he would become an architect. What he did not know was that his bureau would be in Vaasa nor that he would have an amusement park and a top modern office building for an electricity company on his desk. We asked Aitoaho, who originally comes from Kajaani, to tell us why it is a good idea to move to Vaasa and in which direction the city is developing.

Exceptionally urban city

“It was a matter of chance that I ended up in Vaasa. I wanted to see different sides of Finland and there happened to be an open position as a town planning architect in Vaasa. When I went to job interview, I honestly thought that Vaasa seemed a bit old-fashioned to me. But I got to change my mind quickly, as seen through an architect’s eyes, Vaasa is an exceptionally urban and well-planned city. The surroundings are beautiful and there is a lot of valuable building stock from different eras. For that, we have the brilliant architects such as Setterberg and Rewell to thank.”

Creative opportunities

“Together with Kalle Viljanen we started an architect bureau in Vaasa in the end of the 1970’s. Conditions for creative sectors are not any less here than any place else. The size of the city naturally sets some limits but offers opportunities as well.  There is more competition in big cities.  If you don’t make it in Vaasa, you can’t blame the circumstances. The bilingualism of the Vaasa region shows that there is a versatile linguistic and cultural atmosphere that is also seen in the construction and architecture of the city.”

Future building

“In many cities the city center’s attractiveness decreases as businesses move outside the city center. I believe that the center of Vaasa will be improved to become more city-like and through it, more vibrant. This implies that more housing will be built in the city center and its immediate proximity. In general, construction is quite anonymous at the moment.  You have to compromise on something, and apparently, architectural knowledge can be compromised on.  Ambition and the final quality of the construction work depend on the planner but also on the one who ordered the project. What is fundamental is the effort to achieve something important. For us there has always been interesting projects in Vaasa. I for example dream of an area with one-family houses self-sufficient on energy and where you can preoccupy yourself with green energy. I believe that it would be totally possible here.