There are so many ways that cities could be more constructively used than they are these days. Nobody would presumably sit down and plan for metal cows to hog as much of the eye-level, human-scale space as cars do in contemporary Helsinki. Nobody would intentionally stick long ribbons of 60 metre-wide asphalt all around our workplaces and our homes. (I would check this. Ed.)
On the other hand, there are areas that used to be parkland or field, which many consider to be in better, more constructive use, as offices, laboratories and information centres. A good case in point is Helsinki’s Viikki. Like so many of Helsinki’s older parts, it used to be a big farm with parklands of its own. Now it’s once again a “park”. A Science Park.
If it weren’t for the continued use of the area for some kind of agricultural use or research as far back as records go, a casual visitor might be a tad upset by the name “park”. Office buildings more like. And, alas, instead of a row of human-sized grocery shops for the campus’s obviously green consumers, the inevitable box for our “choice” of K-Market or S-Market.
But rather than focussing on the negative (diatribes we do not want) let’s just point out that the newest addition to Viikki’s campus area is the Helsinki Environment Centre. Designed by Oulu-based architects Kimmo Kuismanen, at well under budget (!!!!) and to require half the energy required by Finnish construction standards, and soon to be carbon neutral. Check out the pdf and try not to start worrying about how many tons of CO2 your life requires…
(Is it possible that Oulu architecture is so, well, so approachable and pleasant in scale, because the architecture department is located in the city centre and in old buildings?)
As for municipal art, Viikki can boast a few tons of used tyres in the shape of a gorilla. By the Estonian Villu Jaanisoon.
The black beast is actually called “Everything is Possible”. Which is a good thought to linger on.
Browsing for intelligent commentary on the interesting times we live in, we discovered this: What Architecture Can Do by Reinhold Martin. He praises the Occupy Wall Street folks and analyses the protest in architectural terms that don’t forget buildings’ sheltering function. And he exhorts architects to stay political this time. And not just a la Haussman or the NYPD in using “hygiene” as an excuse to ignore important demands.
Martin doesn’t quite think that everything is possible. But what he says is still pretty bold: More is possible!
Architecture is capable of mounting a profound critique of the status quo. In doing so, it can also model partial worlds and offer up these models for public discussion and disputation. Not perfect worlds, but possible ones.