Knowledge City

Recent posts on this blog might suggest that the dominant idea of a Knowledge Economy and the Knowledge City (or Knowledge Village) that goes with it are somewhat dubious concepts. They’ve impoverished the much older concepts of knowledge and science along with innovation and creativity, and it’s highly debatable whether more investment in R&D does anything remotely connected to making the world a better place. Remember, you read it here (first), plenty of people have warned, in detail, that treating knowledge as a good to be traded can mean the end of intellectual progress (oh, how DID I get started on the Tragedy of the Anti-Commons!?)

Let’s get back to buildings. Here. Teaching can make use of technology. Here is some spanning three centuries. The building (on Snellmaninkatu) is now known as Arppeanum. It was built in 1869 to house the university’s chemistry labs. So, we’re back on message!

And architecture more generally? Well, there’s Gehry’s “creation” for a Sydney campus that we mentioned in our last post. But in most cities, including we fear, Helsinki, the prognosis isn’t great.

A quick look at today’s student accommodation doesn’t “wow” one. On first impact it suggests that young people feel entitled to a level of luxury (and energy through-put) to which the planet is unlikely to stretch but, more to the point, which makes us oldies feel really old. Still, student housing is being organized more and more in a way that may look good on the outside but feels bad and looks bad on the inside. Actually, according to Owen Hatherley student halls are no longer even good-looking on the outside.

Let’s ignore the gargantuan campuses of the Far East or the Gulf States. The Americans meanwhile have housed academic life according to the tastes and budgets of a continent and a couple of centuries worth of rich benefactors. So you get a range of architecture, from Jefferson‘s classic campus in Charlottsville, Virginia to even a few Finnish architects done good abroad. Aalto’s Baker House at Harvard seems well loved, and the Saarinens, senior and junior, made an OK imprint on America’s ‘knowledge’ landscape too.

But alas, there is no news, good or otherwise, to report on upcoming campus developments in Finland. The silliness of creative/knowledge/designer city and all that continues to intrigue people with money and power. But since the Music House/Building to be opened later this year, not much in the way of housing human betterment has passed throught the workings of the Helsinki region’s planners, at least not into anything resembling a pipeline.

However! We can enjoy science in old buildings.

Amazing! Yes, for some time now, Helsinki has enjoyed a Night of the Sciences (as part of a biennial event, the Science Forum). As part of it you can get to see the Night Exhibition at the City Museum tomorrow when it’s really dark (like, from 3pm to 10pm) – I recommend. Check out also the art on the walls of the Bank of Finland which will also be letting the public in, etc. etc.

Never been to this event myself, so not sure what it or its ethos is like – but looks interesting and looks like it wasn’t completely put together by (or for) the place-marketing industry. Some of us are actually interested in the kind of stuff on offer.

The programme is mostly in Finnish though.


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