Hietsu pavilion – malign neglect or what?

There are a few good things that still come through one’s letter box in paper form. There is the official organ of the City of Helsinki, the Info (“English supplement on the Web”) which isn’t all bad. And for those of who subscribe, there is the free-of-charge and wonderful Sofia courtesy of the City Museum.

And then there are the local rags. Ours is the paper-only Töölöläinen.

It is tabloid-size and its adverts look the same from decade to decade. It has several really rather informative columns and listings, and like freebies generally, it has lots of those restaurant reviews that were probably written by the owner.

It is also very keen on architecture. Maybe the people who read it really do pay attention to the stuff around them. Each week they have a photo competition where you have to work out the location of some small architectural detail. Something like this, for example.

And they campaign. Recently they have been keen to talk about the fate of the wooden pavilion at the beach in Hietaranta. Shamefully, it has been allowed to fall into a terrible state of direpair. It was designed by Gunnar Taucher , one of Helsinki’s earliest “municipal head architects”. (The chap who designed the wonderful but barely noticeable Töölö health centre, that most people still know as Kivelä hospital.)

As Töölöläinen keeps reminding readers, Taucher’s wooden pavilion by the enduringly (and deservedly) popular beach by Hietaniemi Cemetery is a treasure. (Photograph from October 2009).

It is a rare surviving example of 1930s wooden building in Helsinki. The City Museum’s view has been all along that the building should be restored. Well, “all along”, at least since 2001 when pressures to get more efficient financial returns on city real estate provoked someone into examining the pavilion’s architectural and historical significance as well as physical condition.

On 30.01.2011 Töölöläinen notes – again  – that the city’s leisure department considers the building unfit for purpose. And informs us that a demolition permit was granted in December.

Besides our local paper, a number of City Councillors are also campaigning to save the building. It is, after all, beautiful.  And given what we know of the preferences of the current crop of planning officers and responsible politicians, it is almost certainly a more loveable as well as more democratic building than any that might replace it.

Which takes us to the brou-ha-ha about the spa and hotel (!) plans under the name Taivallahti in the same area. Surely, it was proposed, the best beach in the city deserves better than … er… a loved, structurally sound building which whispers to us of so many  generations of beach-lovers in this city.

A few years back, when the spa and hotel debate was alive (actually, it still is) a councillor (Paavo Arhinmäki) had this to say:

Jos ajattelemme Hietsua, Hietarannan uimarantaa, niin sehän on nimenomaan stadilaisten, helsinkiläisten merellinen paratiisi.

or

Hietsu is precisely our marine paradise.

His point is and was that it’s for us ordinary people, not for the fantasy tourist whose fat wallet will save the city from ruin.

Let’s hope that the fashion for and the belief in building for opulence-hungry visitors will soon fade away. When that’s achieved, construction decisions and a robust schedule for careful management and upkeep will get the room they, and we, deserve.

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