Monopolies and wooden sky-scrapers: comments from a small country

Opinions are divided on the City’s plans to build 10 tower blocks in Pasila near where some SLOAP (space left over after planning) currently offers urban farming, petanque and antique railway enthusiasts space to flourish. The towers are said to promote dense and therefore sustainable urban living, Pasila is the right place for la-defense-like towers, Helsinki needs some pizzazz in its architecture – such are the views in favour. But then again such tall buildings won’t work at this latitude, nobody really likes high-rise living, quality of workmanship and building is unlikely to be good enough to keep the area pleasant (contra). Right, renderings from Cino Zucchi Architetti, more here.

Perhaps inspired by the news, one tongue-in-cheek (or not) letter to the editor in The Usual suggests that on Katajanokka instead of the gigantic ice-cube-like hotel designed by Swiss architects, Helsinki should erect a monument to Finland and its modern spirit: a wooden skyscraper. That would convey all the right messages.

Related, or not, to questions of urban form and ideas about concentration (people, power, buildings) elsewhere talk turns to a feature of Finnish society which even many social critics prefer to ignore, namely continuing support for corporatism and monopolies. On 18.11 in HS a Canadian journalist living in Helsinki, Brett Young, writes:

Suomi on pieni maa, jota hallitsevat dynaamiset monopolit. [Finland is a small country dominated by dynamic monopolies.]


[… a country that produces high-quality products for global markets and remains internationally competitive despite its small size and the semi-monopolies that force their way everywhere.]

In the same issue author Kjell Westö notes how often it’s commented on in Finland that in a small country power becomes concentrated, this is apparently totally natural. Secretly Finland is perhaps a little smaller than other countries with an equally small population, he muses, since power has the habit of concentrating just that little bit more here.


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