Helsinki and Containers

17.09.2010 at 20:54 | Posted in Architecture, History, Industrial | 5 Comments

by Johannes Klein

Helsinki changes. It doesn’t change like Berlin after November 1989. It doesn’t change like Paris with the help of Georges-Eugène Haussmann, but Helsinki changes. The change has been visible in the constantly altered coastlines. And the change has manifested in the recent years by the migration of industries and harbours.

The Sinebrychoff brewery, which operated since the 1820 at Bulevardi in Hietalahti, moved to Kerava in the 1990. The Primula bakery is about to move from Vallila to Järvenpää. The railway track that once enclosed almost the entire city centre is now hardly recognizable anymore. Large areas close to the city centre were rededicated or are about to change from industrial use to housing and offices. This affects e.g. Arabianranta, Hernesaari or Valilla.

Most visibly the harbour activities in Kalasatama and the container harbour west of Helsinki’s city centre were moved to Vuosaari. The old harbour areas are now vast fields of concrete, asphalt and open pits in constantly changing patterns. During this transition the area can be occupied by interim activities.

Containers like those once handled on Jätkäsaari in the west harbour have got now wide meaning of mobility and flexibility and temporary use. This has been explored manifold all over the world. Containers host temporary offices at construction sites. They are modified and reshaped to all kinds of uses. They are used as symbols of mobility.

So, what about containers and Helsinki?

Let’s have look to the west harbour. A small tower of two containers informs at the entrance to the construction site at Jätkäsaari. Depending on the state of development they are moved from time to time.


Changing the location from west of the city to the east, we come to Kalasatama. Visiting Kalasatama, we first saw the marks of containers that were printed to the pavement. How many times containers full of goods were put down lifted on this spots? Which destinations are connected to this reminiscence of former use?


At the very southern end of the area three wind turbines installed on containers produce “mobile” energy.


Rather several containers are arranged to the Konttiaukio (container square), which hosts currently a variety of activities organized by e.g. the public school Helsinki, Merimieskirkko (Finnish Seamen’s Mission), Kuvataideakatemia (Finnish Academy of Fine Arts) or the environmental organisation Dodo. A blackboard at the square informs about upcoming events.

The void frame of containers on a (temporary) void spot offers plentiful possibilities. The containers set the link from former use to interim use and flexibility.

However, I can’t help, but seeing also another connotation in the containers. Containers are standardized; containers are compatible to each other; containers can display uniformity; containers are arranged in right angles. Somehow, this depicts the development of Helsinki too. The process of transition from harbour to housing is organized, it is smooth; it follows a schedule; there are little tensions; there is now vacuum that could suck in whatever comes close by accident. There is freedom, but is has a frame.

camera obscura

Just keep your eyes open, you might find much more examples. A mobile camera obscura, a home for wind surfers….


Artificial Helsinki

18.06.2009 at 17:32 | Posted in Architecture, History, Industrial | 13 Comments
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Helsinki is indeed a very different city than it used to be and development is progressing rapidly. New construction sites are popping up and whole districts are being reorganised as areas around the centre convert from industrial zones to housing estates. But what was the shape of Helsinki’s core districts before the industrial expansion began?
From the map below you can see what was the original coast line, about a hundred years ago, in relation to the current, expanded shore (red shape). The west coast underwent the most dramatic changes with the west harbour and docks claiming a large portion of the coast line. So have areas around the Suvilahti power plant. Both are about to be transformed into expensive housing estates. The Katajanokka harbour has clearly generated some new land too and Töölönlahti has been shrinking significantly along the years. Notably part of what used to be a lake is now a large parking lot behind Finlandia Talo. (The comparison is approximate due to inconsistencies between the old and new maps.)

source of underlying map

Following a request from Hugo I created another overlay with a map of Helsingfors dating back to 1815 in which the visible changes are even more dramatic. Back then there was nothing developed on Katajanokka yet and no railways nor stations existed.
source of underlying map

Here’s a map from the Geological Survey of Finland that neatly shows the expansion of the shorelines along the years.
I received it from Johannes.

Here’s a map that Johannes created recently using all the gathered data.

Penny Lane Boutique

6.09.2008 at 16:18 | Posted in Buy Stuff, Get Some Clothes, History | 1 Comment
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by Erik Johansson

Penny Lane is a must see for anyone who likes second-hand shopping. The boutique is placed in a most unique and beautiful two-story room. The ceiling is covered with a beautiful mirror and is encircled by a balcony-like upper floor. They have been around for 15 years and house mainly woman’s clothing (a lot of spectacular dresses on the upper floor), but there is also small section of men’s clothing. For instance, I found a couple of dress-suits for rent. If you ever find yourself in need of a masquerade costume, this is the place to go! They have fezes and all other hat-types imaginable. The shop is located on Runebergsgatan 39. See map >>>

Antique Jewish Cemetery

18.05.2008 at 20:58 | Posted in History, Walk Route | 10 Comments
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According to Jewish tradition cemeteries are established for eternity – they cannot be removed nor can the graves be exhumed. This old Jewish graveyard, located within the large Hietaniemi cemetery, is fenced off and not in use any more. In theory it can be accessed from Lapilahdentie street but the gate was locked shut so I had to photograph from behind the fence. As I read on the website of the Jewish Community in Helsinki “Finnish Jewish history effectively began in the first half of the 19th century when Jewish soldiers (so-called cantonists), who served in the Russian Army in Finland, were permitted to stay in Finland by the Russian military authorities following the soldiers’ discharge.” The cemetery can’t thus be older than 200 years. Before that Jewish settlement on Finnish territory was forbidden in conformity with Swedish law.

The old Jewish graveyard is nowadays contained within the Islamic cemetery which was officially established in 1871 and was then the first Islamic cemetery in Finland. Currently the oldest grave on the Islamic side dates from 1916 and belongs to a Cossack named Gafur Kangachlin. He served in the 5th sotnia of the 8th Orenburg cavalry regiment. [Re-edited 22.05.]

Suomenlinna Tunnel

7.05.2008 at 15:49 | Posted in Architecture, History, Industrial, NotBeen but WannaGo, Strange | 7 Comments
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Although it is by no means a secret not everyone knows there’s a tunnel connection from the Suomenlinna island to mainland Helsinki. The 1300 metre long tunnel starts in northern Länsi-Mustasaari island and comes out in south-eastern Kaivopuisto by the Läntinen Puistotie street. Apart from providing the islands with hot water the tunnel serves as an emergency route for ambulances, fire brigade and police. The tunnel is nested 63 metres below sea level half of which is rock and half water. About 500 cubic metres of seawater seep into the tunnel every day and have to be constantly pumped out.

photo source

The Suomenlinna tunnel is only one of very many underground passages drilled in the rock underneath Helsinki. There are public transport tunnels like the metro tunnel from Sörnäinen to Ruoholahti, there are numerous sewage tunnels and there is also a system of tunnels connecting Helsinki’s central hospitals that can be used to transport soldiers and medical equipment. The water in Helsinki is brought from the Päijänne lake by means of a 120km long tunnel dug 10-100m deep in the rock.

Read Hugo’s comprehensive comment to find out more about underground Helsinki.

Downtown Fire Depot

10.02.2008 at 19:35 | Posted in Architecture, History, Industrial, Museum, Tourism | Leave a comment
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Fire Depot Fire Depot

Helsinki’s oldest used fire depot. It was erected in 1891 from a design by architect Theodor Höijer. Apart from a fairly interesting museum the building can boast a 42 metres tall tower. Although the height is not too impressive in regard to other cities around the world it is tall enough for Helsinki standards to provide a great view over the entire city and the sea.
Now getting on the tower might be a bit tricky because they open it only on certain days so it needs a bit of arranging with the firemen. Check the location of the depot on a map.

Old Rails in Central Helsinki

21.11.2007 at 19:58 | Posted in History, Industrial, Railroad, Walk Route | 6 Comments

oldrailroad01.jpg Old Rail Tracks

All around central Helsinki there used to be a railroad track by means of which cargo trains could directly access all the important industrial sites around the city’s southern shore. The western part of that track leading from the main Helsinki railway to the western harbour is still in use (photo above left and below) but the rest has either completely vanished or is undergoing a slow decay.


Here and there leftovers of the old rails are still visible from underneath the pavement and I have tracked down traces of them as far as the parking of the Katajanokka Terminal building (photo below left). These seem to be left there almost by accident whereas leftovers of the rails on the Kauppatori square are consciously marked by the pavement design (photo below right).

oldrailroad03.jpg oldrailroad02.jpg

Pet Cemetery

29.10.2007 at 17:36 | Posted in Go At Least Once, History, Leisure, Nature, Romantisch, Show a Foreign Friend, Walk Route | 1 Comment
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I invite you to visit the Pet Cemetery located in midst of the Central Park, few hundred metres south of Metsäläntie. Preferred time of visit is after dark, the rest you may want to find out yourself. Look it up on the map.
New: Check out typographical details of the graves.

Pet Cemetery

Pet Cemetery

Flea Market Valtteri

25.09.2007 at 16:38 | Posted in Architecture, Buy Stuff, Get Some Clothes, Go At Least Once, History, Industrial, Show a Foreign Friend | 9 Comments

This flea market, although very big and popular, you’re not likely to find by accident unless you live near it – it is located inside an old, brick warehouse along Teollisuuskatu (quite near the Primula Café) and the entrance to the precinct is from Aleksis Kiven katu 17. The best time to go hunting for stuff is on weekends when dozens of people set up their stands (during summer season also outdoors). On weekdays only a self-service version is functioning on which you can still find quite purty wares (see pics below) but then any bargaining is out of question since all products have price tags and have to be paid for at the checkout like in a regular supermarket. Look it up on the map.


Valtteri Valtteri

Rikhardinkatu Library

4.09.2007 at 12:54 | Posted in Architecture, History, Romantisch, Show a Foreign Friend, Where to Read a Book | 1 Comment

The old library on Rikhardinkatu street is an important spot on the map of Helsinki’s centre. The building was completed in 1881 and shortly after became the National Library. Nowadays the extensive library system is called Helsinki City Library, but out of the 40 libraries this one remains so far my favourite. Despite the many years and the all-embracing, continuous modernization this place maintains the spirit and atmosphere of an old library. Look it up on the map.


Library Library

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