The science-fiction film Things to Come was premiered in 1936. It was based on H. G. Wells’ novel The Shape of Things to Come which toyed with the idea that the future would be lived underground in gigantic, high-tech cities. In the story the looming war (which turned out to be the Second World War) goes on for a decade and destroys everything following which civilisation has to pull itself up by its bootsraps. When it does, it goes underground in a BIG WAY. There was nothing dark or cold about living in tunnels in that film, it was all progressive, between-the-war utopian thinking.
It’s not quite the hygienic and sleek progressive architect’s dream of the film, but Helsinki has quite a bit of underground life already. Folks are used to the network of underground tunnels getting them from one side of the peninsula to the other, and of course anyone who owns a car and wants to bring it into the town centre, these tunnels must be very familiar. (Some people boycott Stockmanns because they recently helped bring more cars onto the peninsula, by offering them 600 spaces right underneath their shop.)
In the 1970s angry young architects complained about the way Helsinki’s street level had been given over to the motor car while people were pushed underground, into Asema Tunneli initially. Many locals now consider this town to be like an emmental cheese, all holes. For the most part though the holes today are for hiding away cars which leaves the street level less congested and more pedestrianised.
There’s more tunnels on the way. The Parliament building’s renovation works have given them an excuse to create a new underground bunker although the siting of the entrance caused expected outrage from neighbours and delay for the planners. Then there’s one for Töölö Bay to allow access to the Music Building and its environs. Meanwhile permission may have been given (but maybe not) for a swimming pool underneath the Russian embassy’s planned extention. And you should know about the road tunnel from Eteläranta under the sea to Suomenlinna (don’t knock it, you might find it useful if you ever need, say, an ambulance while you happen to be on the island) and eventually no doubt we’ll have a tunnel to link us to Tallinn.
No but seriously, this is such big business in these hi-tech times that the City published, last year, a pioneering document, a development plan for underground. The routes seen below were already in the plan by 2002, but the map doesn’t specify a mode of transport. One assumes very different needs for pedestrians, cars and vans, trains, cyclists. There seems to be huge enthusiasm for developing underground planning.
Planning aside, two guys who tried to travel by metro without paying yesterday legged it once they spotted the ticket inspectors, through the tunnel from Ruoholahti to Kamppi. The media say they rose onto the platform and disappeared into the crowd. Metro traffic was stopped for ten minutes.
Here pictures of where people are, clearly, expected to walk. It’s the pedestrian route from Yliopistokatu to the Kaisaniemi metro which many are now using instead of the Railway station.