Ideas from Britain

Media sources from Finland just do not stop producing copy and images to do with planning, with buildings, with architecture, with new governance, with the wonderful future… The question is, does it alter anything?

If all this stuff takes place or takes up time in Finland it also takes place or takes up time in Britain. Here’s one example of stuff competing for people’s attention in Britain that’s also competing for people’s attention in Finland.

Publics today like pictures a lot. Thus visualisations are important. Information is Beautiful (Brian McCandless’ book now also available in Finnish, Tieto on Kaunista). Knowing that everybody must know everything about everywhere, especially about the Helsinki Region, the authorities have launched a service for the public to access information about … er, itself. (Itself of course being ‘the public’.)

Helsinki Region Infoshare has actually been around for a couple of weeks. To date, though, it’s not quite got the bit about “beautiful” yet, or even “useable”.

When we first heard of this, we were actually quite excited. What a great tool for a blogger on things to do with the Helsinki Metropolitan Region! Well, it’s a bit disappointing. Some really cool looking links though caught our eye. Alas, the coolest-looking website it  linked to was down just now so we will have to return to the topic later.

In the usual way, the copy on the Infoshare website notes that this great idea is an import from the great overseas, the USA and the UK.

Indeed. Online or e-government is SO taken for granted in today’s Britain, and oh, so useful. It keeps thousands of municipal and government officers extremely busy collecting, collating and, presumably, at least visualising if not actually making use of, data. Links on the government website offer, for instance, data on who is whose boss and how much the staff at the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency earn, or how the crime rate is developing. All of this as understood from uncooked data by you, me and the rest of this great public.

Sooo, unless the Helsinki region infoshare-thingy becomes much more user-friendly soon, we fear it will contribute more to obfuscation and will produce overwhelming complexity leading to apathy if not paralysis.

The other thing borrowed from the UK that has, fortunately, a more mixed legacy, is the garden suburb-type or neo-traditionalist planning so popular in the UK for over 100 years. It can produce pleasant villagey and human-scale environments. Regular droppers-in to JHJ will know that we are generally fans of modernism (thought to be inimical to neo-traditionalism), but experience – a lovely sunny morning in Pikku Huopalahti – does mean something.

By Finnish standards, this on the right is not modernism but neo-traditionalism. Like the built environments that Prince Charles likes, it tries to value community and to make the new look like it’s quite old. Making adjacent buildings look self-consciously different from each other does appeal to the public (or “the public”) and you should pay attention to that sort of thing (as Panu Lehtovuori noted 5 years ago about neo-traditionalism).

Certainly, if HRH and Leon Krier are kept at bay, and if the scale is a little bit bigger than your average British two-up-two-down, the results can really be quite pleasant. Pikku Huopalahti:


1 Comment

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One response to “Ideas from Britain

  1. JeesHelsinki

    No sooner had I uploaded the above post than I discovered that visualisation might be about to revolutionise society as we know it. So, at least, according to the Saïd Business School in Oxford who are hosting a conference on the topic:

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