Rusting away

22.08.2007 at 17:55 | Posted in HSS, I Like it Anyway, Industrial | 1 Comment

by HSS student Mihai Oprea

Of course, the little fishing boat has seen better days. I mean, weeds and empty barrels are at best mediocre substitutes for salty water, breeze and surf. Not even the omnipresent seagulls find their way around here. Still this little old boat surrounds you with an air from another time; you can almost smell salted fish, cheap tobacco and lamp oil.

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I don’t know for how long this boat has been ashore in a corner of Suomenlinna; the fact that the owner has abandoned it can only make you think that he also abandoned his fishing business a while ago.

 

Many more other things look abandoned in Helsinki. I found, near the southernmost tip of the peninsula, this fascinating railroad. It starts abruptly under the pavement, in the middle of an intersection; I followed it for a while -it crosses a dense area near Rouholahti- until I lost it near an empty dock. I can assume it linked the western harbor with what is now the Silija terminal? For now, it’s just rusting peacefully around a popular leisure area.

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The old dock, with its crane facing away from the water, a sleepy tugboat and a brick smokestack in the background, is just across the water from a busy yachts marina. Weekend sailors enjoy cold beer and tapas at a trendy terrace nearby. Two ages looking at each other, divided not just by a stretch of water, but also by generations.

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Maybe the old fishing boat from Suomenlinna was moored in its days in the shadow of the brick smokestack. Maybe cargo trains were a common sight once on the rusty railroad. More than just landmarks, they are the heritage of a generation not so far away.

 

I’m sure that there are many other corners in Helsinki that give testimony about an epoch which is not so far away. In the short time that I’ve spend here, I was fascinated by the richness and ubiquity of industrial-era landmarks. From the massive cast iron crane, to the little wooden fishing boat, they were true wonders of technology in their days. People marveled at them just like today we hail our little digital gadgets.

To be consistent with the theme of “urban growth”, my point is that progress doesn’t have to come at the price of giving away a rich heritage. Their presence may tell a story now, but it may become meaningless in the future. By acknowledging the presence of these “silent witnesses”, we come to understand and value the achievements of a generation not so far away from our own.

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  1. […] I’ve met Wojtek Mejor during the weeks I have spent in Helsinki for the summer school. He runs a blog with sort of open postings, which he started while working on his thesis. His blog is called Locating Helsinki and aims to document hidden, unusual, unfamiliar, unpopular, unnoticed, undescribed, uncharted spots, in the Helsinki area of course. He has some projects still running on his blog -I find particularly interesting the 12 steps to Helsinki. For one of his projects, I have brought a small contribution, which you can find more about here. […]


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