Building on Tradition

The iconic Porvoo downtown is about to get a smooth makeover

artikkelikuva: Building on Tradition

Porvoo is a unique traveling destination in Finland. With its red-ochre painted riverside warehouses, the medieval wooden town center known as Old Porvoo is one of the most photographed national landscapes in the nation. Admiring the colorful wooden houses on a leisurely stroll along the winding cobbled streets, many a traveler has felt like he/she is walking in a children’s storybook.

In fact, this environment is the very same which inspired Johan Ludvig Runeberg, Finland’s national poet, in mid-1800’s. To this day, the best-known attraction in Old Porvoo is the Runeberg family home, preserved in its original glory.

In Porvoo, safeguarding the identity and the roots of the community is a big priority. With this in mind, the City has set out to upgrade the downtown area. Dan Mollgren, Head of Urban Planning, says that the idea is to develop the town square into a vibrant heart fort the local community.

“We want people to come to the town square and really enjoy themselves and spend some time there,” he says, explaining that there are plans to add cafés, various events and also new architecture.

Core Concerns

However, the makeover of Old Porvoo goes well beyond simply reinventing the town square. According to Mollgren, there will be a full-blown town boulevard as local Läntinen Mannerheiminväylä road will be expanded and integrated more thoroughly to the downtown area.

“With this development, we can add as many as 2,500 new residents.”


Another major improvement is the creation of a promenade, running from Rihkamatori square via the entire renewed Citymarket retail block (Nimbus) to the town square. This way Old Porvoo will connect to the Empire-style city quarters in a pedestrian-friendly way.

“We’re seeking an over-all upgrade which features many elements – all directed at improving access to services and people’s comfort in the downtown area,” Mollgren says.

Re-energizing Downtown

The development efforts are in line with the Porvoo city strategy which calls for more vibrant street level activity, in the form of e.g. retail and residential buzz. The City is fully aware that it is the keeper of a true national treasure and wants to preserve the original spirit of Old Porvoo even as changes are made to accommodate the future, as well.


“The Empire-style city center is developed with utmost care. We’re also exploring hybrid construction in the downtown area, bringing together hotel operations and offices, for instance.”

Securing Sustainability

Porvoo has been keen on developing the downtown since 2017, looking for ways to make it more dynamic and accessible. According to Mollgren, the City wants to honor the existing iconic wooden houses by raising also new wood buildings.

“Wood construction is quite high on the City’s agenda,” he says. Furthermore, Mollgren believes that Porvoo can make advances in other type of climate friendly development, too.

“We have room here to launch bold pilots and experiments that really zero in on environmental concerns.”


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