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Vokal is an architectural practice founded by architects Ella Kaira and Matti Jänkälä.
We are located in Helsinki.
 
​Our approach to architecture and urban design is community-based and research-driven. We employ architectural design methods and research in order to explore the dynamics between architecture, social movements, and property markets within the contemporary city. 

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Derived from the Latin word vocalis meaning sounding, sonorous and speaking, as well as the noun vox, meaning voice, the modern use of the vocal refers to being outspoken. We believe that speaking up, or being vocal, on urban issues is crucial for realizing a sustainable future in urban living.

Cities are most effectively conceived when involving the people who inhabit and utilize them. Being vocal helps to create urban environments that are beneficial, accessible and welcoming to a diverse populace. A wealth of knowledge exists regarding people's needs and desires in cities. Our aim is to bring forth this information in the urban planning process.  ​Our approach is based on a deep understanding of place and local communities.

STORYTELLING

When engaging with communities, a need for a common language becomes evident. Storytelling methods can foster an understanding of our built environment and reveal the underlying forces driving urban development. Just as unraveling the property dynamics is vital in city-making processes, we use storytelling and observation to reveal the nuances of social interactions in different urban settings, which can help incorporate more diverse notions of public life. 

 

Workshops are valuable platforms where we employ architectural tools like scale models, drawings, and maps to effectively uncover the needs and desires of local communities in their immediate surroundings. Our focus is to ensure that this information is seamlessly translated into tangible architectural and urban plans. We also believe in engaging the public in discussions about pressing issues related to architecture and urban development. Valuable insights can be gleaned from residents, city dwellers, and anyone who interacts with the physical environment within our cities. 

ENGAGING WITH COMMUNITIES

Language wields immense power as it serves to convey what shapes urban design processes. The current societal value system is deeply rooted in language, emphasizing the need to carefully examine our linguistic choices. ​Language can be used as a powerful normalizing agent, capable of hiding behind a mere word an entire ideology. Much like design visuals and polished renders showcase intended uses of public space, language can shape a negative or positive narrative about an urban environment.

Making architecture is a complex process that brings together numerous stakeholders, including architects, construction industry professionals, private developers, and political representatives. In contemporary times, commercial organizations, often backed by state agencies and local authorities, are wielding a growing influence in reshaping and redeveloping public spaces. This shift frequently sidelines local groups and individuals, leaving them on the periphery of the equation.

Our aim is to bring together communities, organizations, and state agents in order to envision better urban living. 

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