Hard Values

Granite, it turns out, is Finland’s national stone. Or rock. Kivi.

Certainly there is a lot of it about. Stone, as many a visitor to Helsinki points out, is remarkably visible here. Not much top-soil, I think, and marvel at my crazy ancestors. Why did they think this inhospitable land was worth cultivating? How could it ever support and develop sedentary civilization?!

Here are some samples of everyday garden variety granite from around the Helsinki peninsula. We think they demonstrate the care and attention to detail that goes into producing hard landscaping around these parts. Every stone is just where it should be!

These from around the Faculty of Social Sciences (or whatever it’s called now that half the departments and faculties have been abolished or merged into one another). Unioninkatu in any case.

Siltavuorenpenger, (number 20 by our friend Gustav Nyström) used to house medical students. Now it’s random humanists and general university types. This here on the right is a stump that must have survived an onslaught of asphalt and granite at some point but then been unceremoniously chopped down. Both pictures taken on Snellmaninkatu.

Helsinki, as we’ve said, grew out of its granite foundations as the multi-storey modern city began to be built from the 1880s. We take good care of these indestructible but not in-defaceable urban features. When buildings get external facelifts, their stone foundations are carefully protected from paint and other splatter. Last month’s papers put to good use, finally.

Granite is good and solid. It’s hard stuff, symbolic of the nation, whether as building material, perimeter wall or just inescapable feature of the landscape. (National Museum on the left there, Parliament building on the right, both photographed from Aurorankatu). Finnish granite is now being exported to China. Though of course know-how in how to break up granite is well developed in Finland, as many engineering-types and other stereotypical Finns will tell you. And Kauppalehti too.

A photo is not available, alas, but a new monument in granite is being created in this fair city. Called a Monument so Selfishness, the Greenpeace-sponsored protest carves in stone the names of those Finnish parliamentarians who today voted for hard values, as we say in Finland (kovat arvot), that’s to say in favour of more nuclear power.

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