A successful businessman and a dabbler in Helsinki’s/Helsingfors’s local politics, Julius Tallberg was keen to get the best creative types to give shape to his dream of a seriously thrusting metropolitan cityscape. Or, put another way, Julius Tallberg bankrolled a planning scheme, Pro Helsingfors, also Suur Helsinki or Great Helsinki, in 1918 into which Bertel Jung, Eliel Saarinen, and Einar Sjöström, three young and very talented architects of the time, put very considerable energy. This developed the idea that Pasila, a valley towards the north of the peninsula on which Helsinki rests, would be a good place for a vibrant and easily accessible city centre, at least for a railway station. It also indulged the conceit that Helsinki could and should build big and showy to be properly progressive.
Tomorrow, on 22.10.2010, the planning process for the area to become Central Pasila area goes one notch further as … well, we’re not sure what. Tomorrow is some deadline or other imposed by the Helsinki City Planning Department. How, exactly, the public consultation is working, is not quite clear from the internet or from the four A4 pages of rhetoric and pretty pictures that one can pick up around the city’s municipal service points. Maybe I should have gone and asked the friendly staff at Laituri.
What is a little bit clearer, are the proposed locations of the skyscrapers that will form part of the early 21st century version of Tallberg’s dream of metropolis. In the image below, as produced for Helsinki by the Milanese architects Cino Zucchi, they are the black polygons sitting in a kind of jagged strip of green. If you know the area, you might be able to work out that they are to be built just south of the station and the exposed bridge that goes from East to West Pasila.
Unfortunately but predictably the plans are terribly disappointing. It’s anybody’s guess how towers of mostly offices and the big road that ploughs through them (popping out from under the proposed blue-box-shopping-centre and bringing all those cars from the road to Nurmijärvi, see our last post) are going to help the city reach its goal of creating a vibrant, cosmopolitan etc, etc, new neighbourhood to optimise the area’s rail infrastructure and excellent geographical location.
Here is some idea of what is being dreamt up currently, cut and pasted, from the Planning Department’s website.
There is certainly potential in the area. Shame that the plans seem to create more of a barrier to separate than a magnet to bring current and future locals together. Poor people, we think. Thirty years after the planning disasters that created East and West Pasila, they are actually making the best of them, creating (as JHJ has been reliably informed) pleasant and neighbourly, er, neighbourhoods.
In the valley between these two unglamorous but not-so-bad areas, tomorrow’s Central Pasila, you’ll currently find railway sidings and listed buildings (see our earlier post) from the days when the area was the heart of Helsinki’s freight railway. They’re partly being used by creative types for creative work and community gardening. How, if at all, the potential of these areas to generate an identity or contribute to an interesting urban fabric at the foot of the skyscrapers, is totally unclear.
North of Pasila station, on the other hand, there certainly is scope to build from scratch. After all, the area has been freight containers and other bits of urban technology for decades. The architectural renderings have the area as generic and neat boxes. Residential, perhaps, but not yet on a drawing board anywhere near us.
Insult to injury: in keeping with Finland’s current planning orthodoxy, Central Pasila as a whole is to be held together with its own lynchpin, a shoebox-shaped shopping centre (the blue box in the small map, above).
Here is the link if you want to enter the competition for this next stage of the entire process.