Sari Viertiö

Research photos from Viertiö's study on the street of Unioninkatu in Helsinki

Research photos from Viertiö's study on the street of Unioninkatu in Helsinki

Sari Viertiö is FCINY’s architect-in-residence for the month of December 2018. Viertiö has worked at the Cityscape Division for the City of Helsinki since 2008.

Architect and urban planner Sari Viertiö considers the interaction of inner and outer spaces the key ingredient for well-functioning urban settings. Viertiö finds it particularly fascinating to study the characteristics of hundreds of years old cities, whose urban structures still succeed in serving their purpose and habitants. Despite the significant sociological changes residents of these cities have witnessed, what makes them continuously suitable for the framework of urban life? Viertiö’s interest in the temporal layers of cities sprang from her lifelong passion for history as well as from the realization that architects and designers hardly ever start their plans from a clean slate.

Sari Viertiö currently works at the Cityscape Division of Helsinki, dealing with the development and preservation of cityscapes and urban spaces. Viertiö has conducted research projects on Helsinki’s urban space, street structures, and architectural temporal layers, including a study on Unioninkatu, one of the oldest and most remarkable streets in Helsinki. Viertiö’s research showed that nearly all of the buildings along Unioninkatu had been changed over the decades, especially those spaces connecting the indoors with the outdoors. In many cases the original entrance hall had lost some of its fine decorative details in favor of a more practical function.

During her one-month-long residency in New York, Viertiö will study one specific street in Manhattan, observing it with the help of maps and floor plans and documenting it with photographs and illustrations. Viertiö’s chosen focus is on the different scales prevailing in the city: “The vertical scale in New York is immense, while the street space, scaled to pedestrians’ proportions, succeeds in being a manageable and pleasant urban space,” the architect explains.

Viertiö sees part of New York’s breathtaking character as the result of large and small scale complimenting each other. She is interested in finding the special characteristics of New York that unite not only the two scales, but also the sometimes extremely differing neighborhoods into a coherent, yet contrasting, whole.