The heart of Helsinki

While the Planning Department are still searching for the soul of this city, we are turning our attention to its heart. As anyone who has attended to urban development here for, oh, about 103 years will know, this is located just down and left of its lungs, its Central Park.

Reconstructive surgery is ongoing in the area of the heart, and is set to continue. It’s possible that the anatomy of the whole will be radically revised in due course. Already the opening of the Music Building on Mannerheimintie, to take place next week, is sending some Helsinkians into a panic over dress codes. Others continue to curse over the steepness of the kerb in the so-called cycle-lane across said main drag, which practically forces them to play fast and loose with life and limb by joining the buses and site traffic on its way into the area beginning to be known as Finlandia Park.

This open space between Töölö Bay, the railway and the back of the Post Building used to be a bit shoddy, admittedly. But it was always much used and it offered a space (it offered space!) near central facilities, that wasn’t over-engineered like so much of Helsinki is. (Even creative-city guru Charles Landry’s Comedians made a point of that when they wrote a report for the City about itself).

New office buildings are going up already. The contemporary problem applies here too then: you set off on a route you know only to find it has been replaced by a hole in the ground.

So, when these holes have been been filled in, we’ll see what they brought. A mechanical (robotic) heart with clearly demarcated valves and channels for molecules of semi-life to slot into, perhaps? That’s what you might expect on the basis of the artists’ impression here.

Then again there are sweet-ish words from the movers and shakers behind the construction boom.

”Töölönlahden alueelle rakennetaan uutta ydinkeskustaa, jossa toimivat ja työskentelevät myös tulevat sukupolvet. Arkkitehtikilpailujen avulla pyrimme löytämään arkkitehtonisesti ja toiminnallisesti korkeatasoiset ratkaisut taloille, jotka rakennetaan kaupunkikuvallisesti erittäin merkittävälle paikalle. On tärkeää, että toimistotalot istuvat arkkitehtuuriltaan hyvin miljööseen ja täyttävät ekologisuus- ja ympäristövaatimukset”, Tarkkonen painotti.

or, more or less:

A new section of city centre is being built on Töölö Bay, where future generations too [who else? ed.] will work and  go about their business. With the help of architectural competitions we are seeking to find architecturally and operationally high-quality solutions as these buildings going up in a place of great importance in the cityscape. It is important that the office blocks slot architecturally into their surroundings and fulfil ecological and other environmental requirements.”

The architects who won the first tranche of buildings may well produce something lovely. But if the city and its conservative and angry types aren’t careful, it may be that politicking and shallow understandings of architectural ambition may yet combine to create sterile yuck. Indeed, in Finland such a peculiar product is a possibility.

Keeping our eyes peeled,

yours, JHJ.

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