From barrels of tar to Tar Barrels – Past the future

The Capital of Northern Scandinavia Oulu is the fastest growing city in the Nordics and a great hub for travel and commerce. Valkea shopping centre is Oulu’s latest major landmark, but with the winner of the Station Centre’s architecture competition, Oulu is poised to get a landmark that is both historic and futuristic.

Matti Matinheikki, the City of Oulu’s director of Urban & Environmental Services, has an office with a view over the construction site of Kaleva’s new premises.

“I can keep a close watch on how the construction’s going”, Matinheikki says with a smile.

And smile he should. The architecture competition for Oulu’s Station Centre yielded several astonishing proposals for the new Station Centre, with many drawing inspiration from the area’s history as a logistics and trade hub of the North.

The winning proposal, Tervatynnyrit, which means tar barrels in Finnish, revisits a time when Oulu was a city from where tar was transported to various regions. While the name itself looks back into the city’s roots, the concept for the Station Centre is truly modern.

“The briefing for those invited to participate in the competition was to design something with an Oulu-twist, with a focus on universal usability. The goal is to build a modern station centre that services both Oulu citizens and tourists from elsewhere, with different options for travel and a variety of services available”, Matinheikki says.

Location, location, location

The contest emphasised a functionally versatile whole where transport, jobs, services, and accommodation come together. This emphasis comes from the fact that the planned station centre area includes both train and bus stations, and is situated between a large supermarket area, and the city centre.

VR Group, Senate Properties, and Finnish Transport Agency are the landowners of the future Station Centre site. As such, they were present to assess the proposals for the Station Centre.

“As Senate Properties is involved in several station centre projects in the country, we have a good understanding of how they are progressing. Oulu’s Station Centre is off to a good start. And as a partner, working together with the City of Oulu couldn’t go smoother, and Matti Matinheikki has my thanks for that”, Senate Properties’ Head of Property Development Antti Kari says.

Finnish Transport Agency’s Land Use Specialist Seppo Serola sings praise also for the proposals the competition received.

“It was a hard time even choosing the architects who would be submitting a proposal. All the major architectural firms in Finland were willing to make a design, and we had to choose”, Serola chuckles.

Finnish Transport Agency’s agenda with the project is to ensure the fluid operation of transport, and Serola states all modes of transport to be of importance. As an internationally recognised cycling city, the Station Centre’s central location between the city centre and large shopping centres is ideal for further developing Oulu’s options for pedestrians and cyclists.

Looking to the future

“I find the Station Centre to be a symbol of Oulu’s development as a city, and as the growth centre of the North. And while Tervatynnyrit won unanimously, the eventual Station Centre can feature aspects of all the proposals. The City of Oulu has the rights to all submitted designs and proposals, so it will most likely be a combination of best of all the possible options”, Matinheikki says.

The next steps are still under planning. According to Matinheikki, if things go smoothly the planning should be ready by 2019, and shovels could hit the ground in 2020.

Kari says Senate Properties’ interests to be in what the project can do in terms of public transport and energy efficiency. And as a governmentally owned enterprise, it is in their interest to develop the project with the least amount of risks possible.

“It is also worth mentioning, that the goals of all parties involved were taken into account in the proposals received. It is of merit also, that a shared goal could be determined. This should facilitate the realisation of the project”, Serola adds.

Matinheikki estimates that if all goes well, Oulu’s new Station Centre could become reality in 2025. In the meantime, Kari hints that they are looking for possible investors and contractors for their properties, who would do their part in creating the Station Centre of the future.