One of the things that make me come back again and again into the Otaniemi campus of Aalto University is the nature! Upon entering Otaniemi, especially if it’s not winter, one quite certainly marks the role of all green in the surroundings; lush foliage, a lot of turf and lawn scattered within the campus (or should I say it’s the other way around, actually!)
How did it come to be this way?
The surroundings of the campus have been basically quite rural up until the latter part of 20th century. In the beginning of 1960s Espoo passed the population limit of 50,000 inhabitants (see figure).
It was also very close to the year when TKK, the Helsinki University of Technology, was moved from our capital Helsinki to Otaniemi in Espoo. In 1952 the first dwellings in the so-called ‘Teekkarikylä‘ (student housing) were built, partly to accomodate the 1952 Helsinki Olympic games participants.
Otaniemi expanded. And continues to do so. There are nowadays close to 1000 high tech companies of various sizes spread into half a dozen business parks, over 8000 jobs, and of course the student body of the quite newly formed Aalto University.
In midst of all change, Otaniemi has still retained traditional merits — and of those I think the strongest is simply: the nature.
It’unique; a matter of fact is that I’ve not visited that many universities around the world, but I think Aalto has the fortune to be located next to a very beautiful natural reserve of Laajalahti. With its 1.8 square kilometers of lush shores, open waters, a broad reedbed and meadows, it imprints a lasting effect on the passer-by.
Laajalahti is beautiful in almost any set of conditions, but I especially love the hour before sunset; dark and light contrast in the Finnish mid summer. Be sure to take a camera with you, should you choose to visit the reserve either on ground level or by climbing to one of the birdwatcher towers.
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