Alku (beginning) is a child-friendly design method developed by Nomaji and is based on our broad experience in designing urban spaces and learning environments. Through this method, we design and develop environments in which everyone can grow and live healthily and happily.

The method includes tools for analysis and participation, design solutions, and customizable outdoor structures and furniture. Crucially, at the centre of the design process are the perspectives and well-being of children and young people. In addition to children’s environments, such as schools and kindergartens, the method can be used to improve child-friendliness in all outdoor spaces. It is adaptable to various scales, from urban planning to detailed outdoor space designs.

In a child-friendly environment, responsibility and sustainability are taken into account in a holistic manner. According to our experience, a child-friendly environment is also beneficial to other users, since a child-friendly city is diverse, interesting, safe and healthy for everyone. It offers opportunities to learn and experience new things, and it promotes the child’s growth and development in a variety of ways. At the same time, it promotes care for the future.

The Alku method is based on three design principles: enabling contact with nature, supporting spontaneous movement and enabling learning opportunities everywhere in the urban environment.

Contact with nature is an important part of children’s development and well-being. Scientific research continuously provides information about the positive effects of regular contact with nature on, for example, the development of a child’s immune system. Contact with nature also helps in understanding biological diversity and the appreciation of nature. In addition to being in nature, contact with nature can be increased in the built environment, for example, by adding natural elements and materials to urban spaces.

Movement improves physical conditions, coordination and balance, helps in the development of creativity and enhances learning. A child-friendly environment supports both guided and spontaneous outdoor movement by encouraging and enabling different ways of using the environment. By adding playful elements to the urban environment, children and young people can engage in increased movement while expanding the areas in which they feel safe and comfortable.

Nature diversity in a diverse built environment offers unique learning opportunities. Learning outdoors increases motivation and teaches a range of skills. In a child-friendly environment, learning opportunities are available everywhere, and learning takes place independently through doing and experiencing. Outdoor spaces offer many learning opportunities, which can make learning more fun and meaningful.

We offer concrete solutions that take children’s needs into consideration as part of the development of cities and that develop child-friendliness at a strategic level. In addition to our own expertise, we also utilise those of our partners in, for example, service and furniture design and participation. If this focus interests you, please contact us, and let’s think about how we could advance child-friendliness together.

Riikka Nousiainen, Landscape Architect, leading expert in child-friendly design,

Lotta Pulkkinen, Architect, expert in child-friendly design,

Get to know our works

Alku goes Carbon Play

On Saturday 26.8, Nomaji organised Alku workshop on the theme of Carbon Play in front of the Oodi library. The workshop was arranged in collaboration with CO-CARBON, as part of the Carbon Smart Green Infrastructure festival.

Helsinki Summer Streets 2022

The Summer Streets leading from Esplanad towards the Design Museum square brought the forest to the city. Nomaji and Sweco were responsible for the conceptualisation and design of the summer streets.

The Kruunuvuorenranta schoolyard and park

“Pelago” project is a result of collaboration between Nomaji and Rudanko+Kankkunen in the invited architecture competition organised by the city of Helsinki. The goal of the competition was to discover a vision and concept design of a new service block building in the Kruunuvuorenranta district and the southern part of the adjacent Haakoninlahti Park.

The Sipoonlahti school

The new Sipoonlahti school is one of the largest school centers in Finland. As part of the extension project, the entire schoolyard was renovated and a new local sport site was built in the area. The schoolyard serves as a versatile learning environment and is also a popular outdoor place for residents of the area outside the school hours.

Rajatorpan koulu

Design Principles for Outdoor Learning Environments

We defined a set of new design principles for school and kindergarten yards. The design guide is primarily intended for designers, but it also helps the client and users to define the needs and functions of the outdoor area.

The Rajatorppa School

The old school building “Ilpola” was replaced by a new building and the old, protected building, will be renovated. Together with the students and teachers, places for learning were designed in the yard.

Metsäkalteva School

The Metsäkalteva school consists of a preschool and a primary school and has been planned with an option for expanding the building in the future. The school is a lively focal point of the new neighborhood where it also offers open multifunctional space for the residents during evening hours and weekends.