I feel that Otaniemi with all of its layers — nature, architecture, schools, people, and events — is where there is amazing potential for creative collisions and research innovation. Every day I'm inspired to come to my office; my heart beats faster in the metro thinking about what might happen each day to spark ideas in my mind.
The very first basic fact about Otaniemi is a big surprise: the area is about the size of the center of downtown Helsinki. With that in mind, it's no wonder that great things are expected of the campus and business hub of Otaniemi, and lots of those great things are already happening.
The known history of the Otaniemi area dates back at least three millennia, but the beginning of its modern state can be traced back to the year. The Otaniemi campus was founded in 1949, when the Finnish government bought it in order to form the Helsinki University of Technology and the VTT Technical Research Center of Finland. The grand plan for the area was directed by Alvar Aalto, who seized his chance to mold his vision of a perfect learning environment for the nation's engineers and architects. The first finished neighborhood was the Teekkarikylä or "Student Village", which originally housed the athletes who competed in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki.
Aalto's ambition made Otaniemi a sight that people came to see from all over the world. The auditorium in the University of Technology's HQ became a symbol for the area's cosmopolitan flare; smiling classes of students have been officially photographed sitting in the nearby amphitheater for decades. Broad fields and parks are scattered in between the red brick buildings. The Pietilä architect couple finished the impressive Dipoli nexus in the early 1960s; today it is the main building of the Aalto University and a popular center for live events.
Recent developments in Otaniemi are intimately tied to the Aalto University. The new school started up in 2010, when three institutions — the Helsinki School of Economics, the Helsinki University of Technology, and the University of Art and Design Helsinki — were merged into one super-university. Otaniemi was chosen as the location for the joint campus. A new multi-purpose center called Väre was constructed in 2018 (to mixed reviews among the students themselves) and older spaces have been successfully renovated, such as the prize-winning Otaniemi library, which became the Harald Herlin Learning Center in 2016.
But Otaniemi is more than just an extended campus. With the coming of the metro, more apartments and services are being planned. Nature paths are open to trekkers, and some horses are also kept in the area, the remnants of a past cavalry estate. Otaniemi and nearby Keilaniemi are home to some of Finland's most enterprising business and technology hubs, where scientists develop everything from satellites for the exploration of our galaxy to solutions in energy efficiency that many hope will answer the challenges of climate change.