So long, summer. Hello electioneering. We hope.
Municipal elections are on 28 October and, gratefully, the Great Transformation is at least somewhere on the agenda.
By Great Transformation I’m not talking about the shift from a kind of all-round existence to the market fundamentalism most of us now take for granted. (See Karl Polanyi’s great book of that name for that story.)
Nor am I talking about the great climate transformation that this blind fundamentalism has brought with it. (Check out George Monbiot’s text about that here).
I am of course talking about New Helsinki and all the stray bits and pieces of urban development going on around it.
Did I say development? Slip of the keys.
At the small scale Helsinki is, and is likely to remain, wonderful. At the bigger scale, well, watch out and invite your friends to visit soon. Something big and ugly is expected near here soon.
Almost whichever way you look, the Helsinki Planning Department is getting a lot wrong. It makes room for cars not people, that is, for cars, not people. It plans to chop down forests where it doesn’t need to. It drives big roads into the city centre. It plans for megamalls instead of local shops. Perhaps it’s even opening the door to mediocre and anti-social architecture. (Surely not!)
It wants to build high and although plenty of people and quite a few bloggers are aghast, I have yet to find anyone who believes the madness could actually be stopped.
Saying “no” or looking for alternatives to “the authorities” perhaps doesn’t come naturally to Finns. (See here for a relevant and nice Finnish piece on the topic).
New Yorkers had been saying “no” with a vengeance since the 1960s and the prickly, saintly Jane Jacobs. Even in Stockholm there must have been critical voices over the years, since nothing like the high-going hubris of Sergels Torg has ever been allowed (at least near the centre) since that went up in the 1950s.
JHJ and friends are grateful to those who are doing something to be constructively critical, e.g. here, here and here. (This last link gets in because before the Töölönlahti moonlight swim of a few nights ago – where ordinary folks protested/rejoiced in the bay with their bodies – Peltsi Peltonen made an impassioned speech on behalf of the sea and against business-as-usual that was music to JHJ’s critique-starved ears.)
Looking forward then to urban planning inching its way onto the political agenda.