Healthy cities in Estonia

Healthy cities in Estonia
  • 27. November 2020
  • Articel,
  • Cooperation festival,
  • Events,
  • News

On Thursday, November 19th, the university cooperation festival “Healthy Cities” took place, which brought together urban researchers, scientists and entrepreneurs. The festival was organized by Tallinn University of Applied Sciences and the Adapter network, which unites researchers and research institutions from Estonian universities.  

Together with the speakers and participants in the panel discussions, it was explored how the city and the man-made environment shape and influence the health of the residents and support their coping.

We have to learn from the biological system  

The culture of living in a city is to understand what is reasonable, what is not reasonable, what is necessary and what is not necessary. How to mitigate the environmental impacts of a dense institution and thereby stimulate the circular economy, how to integrate green networks with the city’s infrastructure and create synergies and benefits from it.

 So what determines the direction of the city’s health, development, and whether the city can die, and how to bring in biodiversity and thereby educate citizens?

Opinions on these topics were heard from many professionals in that field, and it is clear that urban space must accommodate people, cars, public transport and green-minded vehicles. Everything that concerns the city’s nature and the biological world at large takes place in synergy, in mutual relations. So by solving one problem, we solve several things.

Although we do not think about it on a daily basis, yes, a big city can also be a dead city, and that is why smart urban planning is important. The main challenge for urban development is how to cope with the changes that are taking place in the world.

“You have to learn about the biological system, the metabolism of a living city. Some cities have signs of death, but we do not yet see the whole that the biological world is alluding to. The more people there are, the more efficiently we use this infrastructure. However, if there are too many people per square meter, a person’s life can worsen. Unfortunately, the size of the city alone is not a guarantee that the city will live,” Kristjan Port, the Professor of Sports Biology at Tallinn University, explained.

A healthy city means a very good living environment. Humans are drawn to well-being. In view of all this, a number of factors must be taken into account. Firstly, whether people feel safe in urban space and, secondly, whether they have any habit of using this public space at all in such a way that they feel like a creator of common wealth there. It has been made clear that creative, cognitive skills do not develop in the space organized to the last detail. This requires smart planning. “In the context of health, well-being means a city where one can reproduce oneself, ie re-create well-being. The city is the place that offers one good work, mobility and a diverse environment. If one of these components does not produce, ie there is not so much wealth creation, then there is no reason to move to the city,” Helen Sooväli-Sepping specified, who is the Vice-Rector for Sustainable Development at Tallinn University and a senior researcher at the Institute of Natural and Health Sciences.

All in all, it is a question of balance and promoting people. In what brings us prosperity. In the city of Tallinn, for example, there is a very high percentage of green areas, but the question here is also what quality our green urban space is, how rich the species is in green areas.

Researchers say that the richer in species the park is, the healthier the person who moves in the park is. “In Tallinn, lawn mowing takes place both in the suburbs and in the heart of the city, and we do not pay so much attention to species richness,” Sooväli-Sepping emphasizes. Adding that the species richness of green space is just one indicator that affects human well-being.

The World Health Organization says that 23 percent of deaths in the world are due to environmental factors – noise, pollution and other environmental aspects. The correlation between health and the environment is strong, but we often do not see or feel these dangers.

Tallinn, and even the Old Town, has also been considered noisy. Sandra Särav, Bolt’s Head of Sustainable Development, emphasized that more and more should be invested in more environmentally friendly means of transport in the future.

“Bolt’s mission is to create the best way to get around the city, and if we can slightly reduce the number of cars moving in the city with scooters and contribute to reducing noise, it will be good for both the environment and urban traffic,” Särav said.

Adding that Bolt has a unique customer base that brings together users of the ride-sharing service and scooters in one application. It provides an excellent overview of how people make their transport choices and how to steer them towards greener choices. “Bolt is working with all cities where the service would be provided to share relevant data to move towards greener and more integrated urban transport. Our goal is to improve transport services by contributing to urban planning and creating proper infrastructure ”.

In the context of the Old Town, however, the integrity of the urban space and the fact that one urban space was not cut off from the others were considered more important at the festival.

Unified urban planning is important 

Toivo Tammik, a lecturer at the Institute of Architecture of Tallinn University of Applied Sciences, gave an overview of the green circle of Tallinn’s Old Town and encouraged to bring more life to the Old Town. “People could be brought to live in the Old Town. At present, there is no community whose members share common goals and values ??to revitalize urban space. Tourists visit the Old Town, and since the environment is cut off from the rest of the region, it is a dead territory in the sense of the healthy city. The area of ??the historic city center needs to be addressed more broadly. The available spatial data of the city is very important in the planning of the healthy city,” Tammik noted.

The participants and presenters acknowledged that we need many small towns and small towns with diverse nature next to Tallinn, which in the same way create well-being in terms of a person’s workplace. All architects and people involved in urban planning should look to the future and explain what the vision for urban space is in 2030 or 2050. We have to ask ourselves how the millions of square meters that we basically build every year are located or built. Alongside money, there is an important emphasis on integrity. Is it always right and justified that decisions are made by those who have the money or does the city itself have a plan and vision, because the healthy city is a wisely planned city.

There were also presentations at the co-operation festival by Kristi Grišakov (urban researcher and Taltech urban planning lecturer), Jarek Mäestu (sports scientist and vice-dean for the development of medical sciences at the University of Tartu), Johan Tali (architect and doctoral student at the Estonian Academy of Sciences),  the deputy mayor of Tallinn, Aivar Riisalu and landscape architects Merle Karro-Kalberg, Karin Bachmann and Anna-Liisa Unt.

In addition, director and entrepreneur Peeter Jalakas, cardiologist Margus Viigimaa, member of the board of Domus Realestate Ingvar Allekand, entrepreneur and CEO of Kodasema, director of Brand Manual Kaarel Mikkin and many others shared their thoughts on a healthy city. The festival was moderated by the journalist Neeme Raud.

The organizer of next year’s cooperation festival is Mainor, the Estonian Entrepreneurship University of Applied Sciences.


Kaja Liivak

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