In Finnish it’s “pilaantunutta maata“, and obviously it needs to be cleaned up with the utmost urgency. To prevent us from being poisoned one supposes. Or to fulfil an important stage in the merry-go-round of modern creative destruction. Or to make sure there’s enough for soil contamination experts to be getting on with. [That was kind of a joke. We are not that cynical].
Here, the landscape of abandonement and fragile hope that was once Sompasaari. But the former harbour areas are everywhere in a state of anticipation, no longer in that left-over-after-planning phase used to such good effect in several Kaurismäki films.
But shouldn’t we be glad that it’s all being cleaned up, made safe, turned into something pleasant and fragrant, perhaps even something in touch with your feminine side as well as your thrusting masculine, machine-like impulses?
[What’s going on?]
[Well. Our writer seems to be in the clutches of an overabundance of topics and/or photos and can’t decide what to concentrate on. Or she’s just being a good Finn, and has had a bit much to drink. “Normal” service will no doubt resume at some point. Let her run with it won’t you.]
Could I please get on with the blog?
Cities change, the world changes, Helsinki changes. But, as we multiglots say… “il y a des gränses” (transl. “there are limits”). And on some days we feel that the limits have not been respected. Or at least, someone somewhere is being in too much of a rush. Why, after all, have the harbour railways that used to give this city its particular ambience of industry, its sense of connection with the material, its acknowledgement of all social classes’ right to be visible in the city … all those important things … why have these railways been so hastily removed in the few months between 2009 and now? It’s as if someone were in a hurry to get rid of them lest someone else suddenly got the urge to put them to (good) use once again!
What, after all, is the point of putting a cycling lane (even if it has a nice name, Baana, chosen by “popular vote”) at the bottom of a dark ravine with few entry points, when a perfectly adequate one is to hand anyway? (Pohjoinen Rautatienkatu, if you’re interested. Oh, and that means, North Railway Street).
Meanwhile brand new, no doubt creative novelties like the metro connection to the West/Espoo (we are not holding our breath) or the droplet/ loop /Pisara underground rail (the National Board of Antiquities isn’t done protesting) are to help Helsinkians get out of their “metal cows” (or off their rubber wheels) and back onto rails at some point. At least according to the Planning Department.
So, we confront two sources of bemusement. One, why not let the old railways stay until something better is proposed for the land they currently occupy? Two, wouldn’t it be better if their morphology and function were taken into account, and not just their image-value, when making future plans?
OK, maybe that’s a bit philosophical. But the urban railways, as they disappear, tell an important story. It’s a story of how, for all its marginality this city 120 years ago did things its own way. Railways that served harbours (benefitting “uncouth” business interests and filling up with working class types) for example, were not usually built in residential areas like they were in 1890s Helsingfors, but heck, that’s what seemed right, and that’s what was done.
To sign off, just a couple of wintery examples. But the sleepers with their toxins have probably gone from those too. “Poison”, said the guys who were dismantling the remains of Sompasaari’s track last week. Poison indeed.