Narrative Planning

During the period 2013-2018, one of my main research projects was “Narrating Urban Redevelopment – The Use and Structure of Narratives in Jätkäsaari and Kalasatama”.

© Tietoa Visualisointi Oy

Jätkäsaari (source: Helsinki City)

Research outline:

The aim is to analyze the structure and use of narratives in two cases of contemporary urban redevelopment in Helsinki. My research wants to make a contribution to narrative and literary studies, as well to urban studies. Several cities in Finland and abroad struggle to integrate former industrial zones into the existing urban framework, and narratives are increasingly used to facilitate this task. The research on how narratives are used in planning remains underdeveloped, especially from a narratological/narrative studies perspective. This project addresses this hiatus by analyzing the functioning of narratives in two specific cases, and by drawing on concepts from literary studies. It aims at both theoretical innovations and the development of practical tools for analysis.

The material consists of the narratives commissioned and produced by the City Planning Department in relation to Kalasatama and Jätkäsaari: official documents (e.g. component master plans, commentaries to plans), but also commissioned works of popular fiction (a novel and comic reels), official profiles at social network sites, and websites with background information. In the course of the project, interviews will be conducted with inhabitants to provide complementary material from a user perspective.

This project will enable literary studies to bring long-standing expertise on narrative structures and imaginative worldmaking to bear on a field of study – urban planning theory – that has been struggling to develop conceptual frameworks with which to incorporate new, discursive practices and paradigms. Building upon extensive experience in researching and teaching urban narratives and city literature, this project will generate important outputs in the form of a monograph, academic articles, an international conference and an active blog. It will elucidate ongoing theoretical debates, both within urban and literary studies. By providing a better understanding of the extent to which official planning narratives and residents’ narratives interact, this research aims at more effective processes to engage local communities and to evaluate the use of narratives in urban planning strategies.


For publications in the course of this project, see

Kalasatama (source: Helsinki City)

I am grateful to the Ella and Georg Ehrnrooth foundation and to the Kone foundation for their generous support for this research project.