The words kauppa (shop, commerce, market) and kaupunki (town, city) are of course related. Towns grew up around commerce. Then they took shape, at least in this part of Europe, very much around their shops, in Finland usually built into the stone foundations of a building, hence known affectionately as kivijalkakauppa (stone-footed shop [we invented that, by the way, hee hee]).
So now they’re in trouble, according to Helsingin Sanomat. And you’d exepct them to be. Not just because of the recession or, as so may writers and decision makers seem to make us want to believe, because we “vote with our feet/wallet” and buy cheaper elsewhere or online. Actually, they’re going because it’s so unbelievably difficult to compete against the darling of the Helsinki decision makers: BIG.
Shopping centres/malls tend to prefer to give “representation” to big brand names rather than support small traders, even if they do make a profit. (Which is an odd way of expressing it, since the word “representation” in connection with urban government used to have something to do with democracy, as in people electing a few well-informed individuals to represent them to the rest. So it goes in our topsy-turvy political world.)
Then there’s the other aspect of this thing. That you (er, the city) help build enornmous amounts of floorspace like in Kamppi, where only the big chains will be able to operate (actually, you probably stitch up a deal before hand, working together, after all, with the “stakeholders”), and you put it, for good measure, where a sizeable proportion of the public HAS to walk past (twice?) every day – the bus station. (“Convenience store” thus defined from the point of view of the commuter, the lynchpin, one supposes, of the innovation economy and who thus has to be managed with care, i.e. offered services that make work-ife easy.)
And if you forget something you were going to get from here – or if you aren’t actually a commuter after all – you might be able to get it somewhere like here. This particular example of shameful greater Helsinki retail architecture is from Mankkaa.
Of course, you can just choose to love the places that, for a short time at least, were “Finland’s/Europe’s/the world’s” largest shopping centre (Itäkeskus, below).
Which wouldn’t be a problem (maybe) for cities if it weren’t for the impact on the street. Hmm, on which note, maybe urban planners and designers should just get rid of the street altogether. As cars recede into history (as they surely won’t. Ed.) and as people retreat into anxious privacy anyway, maybe cities can grow to look like something totally different from what we’ve got used to living in and loving over the last 100 to 200 years.
Funny thing though. In Helsinki, flats located in the old fashioned urban street and particularly the street near the shops, have the biggest price tags – decade after decade (as published in this pdf by City of Helsinki Urban Facts).