Page D2.1 . 11 July 2001                     
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department
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    Finnish Variations

    by Sabine von Fischer

    Contemporary Helsinki is anything but a sleepy small town as one might know it from the films of Aki Kaurismaki. Even though today's inhabitants don't lack any of the charm of the Leningrad Cowboys, the economic boom propelled by communication technology has altered the scene: entire areas of the city are renewed, rebuilt, re-invented.

    Next to the office campuses of Nokia and other "new-tech" companies, new urban areas like Ruoholahti offer modern living by the waterfront, while the city center features new landmarks by Finnish and foreign designers. No other country offers as many dynamic opportunities for young architects.

    Giant Factories for Art

    Along the Helsinki bay, which freezes during cold winters, an entire city quarter has been constructed in recent years, combining the urban experience with public areas along the waterfront.

    Still, the new five- to eight-story buildings seem small next to the industrial giants remaining in the area. On one side are ships under construction, which could be taken for buildings at first glance. On the other side, the remaining factories, like the Kaapeli, or cable factory. The largest is 550,000 square feet (51,000 square meters).

    In 1989, a group of artists and architects convinced the city to lease the abandoned space to small businesses and artist groups. Pia Ilonen, one of the initiators, who worked out a concept for a renovation with minimal intervention, is still proud that the Kaapeli has kept the atmosphere of an industrial giant where artists, designers, radio stations, theaters, and museums develop their creativity without restraints.



    ArchWeek Photo

    New urban areas like Ruoholahti in Helsinki offer modern urban living by the waterfront.
    Photo: Normal Group for Architecture

    ArchWeek Photo

    Along the Helsinki bay, which freezes during cold winters, an entire city quarter has been constructed, partly by Finland's younger-generation architects.
    Photo: Normal Group for Architecture


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