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….


Pasila Tunnel

8.11.2009 at 21:49 | Posted in I Like it Anyway, Industrial, Railroad, Strange, Walk Route | 11 Comments
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It took me a while before I decided to go explore this tunnel in Pasila and when I did unfortunately I forgot to take a flash light with me. It’s approx. 600m long so when you get to the middle it does get a bit scary. I used the camera’s flash to look around and discovered some hardly soothing drawings on the walls. Dripping water and other sounds amplified by the stone walls also played an important role during the walk. The train I was anxious to meet didn’t come but I imagine that the tracks may be still in use, so take that into account when you visit. (Update: according to Timo L. the end part of the tracks has been removed so no need to fear the train.) You can access it either from the industrial railways next to Pasila’s railway station or from the other side around Kumpula. The tunnel is part of a track that connects the ”container city” on the railway route coming from the north with Kalasatama and the industrial harbours near Hermanninranta. These interesting harbours will soon be removed to make way for new, expensive apartment blocks – part of a bigger plan to convert Helsinki’s old industrial areas into smooth housing districts.
If you’re interested in railroad related stuff check out other posts within the new railroad category.



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.

Vuosaari Harbour #2

20.04.2009 at 0:15 | Posted in Architecture, Industrial, Walk Route | 1 Comment
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by Edit Bajsz

The Vuosaari harbour was opened to traffic last November (see it under construction). I went to check it out on a cold winter day and found some awesome things. It was a Sunday, I guess partly because of that, partly because of the recession affecting the field of logistics, the area was rather quiet. But still it was amazing to see those cranes and piles of containers.
On the western edge of the port I found the empty dock of an old shipyard. I found out later, that sadly there is maybe not too much time left to adorn its awesome proportions. In spite of the original plans, which would have kept the pool filled with water, several bridges crossing over it from the port to the business park on the other side, most of it will be filled and the area will serve as a base for the container-lego-game, leaving only a small pool as a reminder of the dock.


I also went to the opposite edge of the harbour, where a highly claimed sound barrier wall stretches a kilometer long between the harbour and the adjacent nature reserve area. Next to the wall, a pedestrian route will be laid out. Maybe for those who want to feel the tension between nature and engineering?
Right at the center of the port area, near the entrances and the main office-building, I found a surprising, little, softly curved building with a wooden facade sitting among those giant sharp-edged logistic facilities. It is the Helsinki Seafarers’ Center.


As I was already freezing, I went into the „Vuoska” restaurant, which has everything a good roadside joint focusing on the appetite of truck-drivers has to offer. They had excellent variety of fresh pullas and cakes late Sunday afternoon! The restaurant serves as a resting place for the people on long hauls, it has saunas, showers, and a corner arranged to look like a cosy living room of a home. The best part is that the Vuoska is open with its kitchen working 24/7.


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.

Mysterious Railway Link

24.04.2008 at 23:43 | Posted in Industrial, Railroad, Strange, Walk Route | 4 Comments
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I’ve spotted this mysterious railway track while riding the ‘Jokeri’ bus line number 550 between Itäkeskus and Oulunkylä. In one place the bus actually uses a narrow, old railroad bridge to cross the Vantaanjoki river (see photo below). The track doesn’t look like it’s often used but it seems to be well-kept and operational. It’s linking the metro line with the VR railroads (via warehouses in the Roihupello industrial area) so it could be used to bring metro wagons from production facilities but I also wonder whether it has any strategic meaning (e.g. to transport arms/equipment to the east of Helsinki).

Update: A lot of things got cleared out after a comment from Kalle.
See comments for an update about the history and purpose of these tracks.

Here’s a map showing where the track used to end in Herttoniemi.

Here’s the whole track in the year 1964.

The destruction of industrial Herttoniemi is documented here.

Try to find the track on a larger map.

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

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

Hanasaari A Power Plant

2.09.2007 at 15:03 | Posted in Architecture, History, Industrial | Leave a comment

Hanasaari A

Since 2000 the Hanasaari A power plant has been off the power grid and is now so devastated and eroded that it is not safe anymore to enter it. It is scheduled for demolition in 2008. It is yet another beautiful place with rich history and potential that will vanish from the map of Helsinki despite ideas and initiatives to creatively exploit its potential.
I couldn’t get past the gate and take any close-up photos but plenty of pictures and material can be found here:
Look it up on the map.

Hanasaari A Hanasaari A

( See also the post by HSS student Carolina Villar: Farewell Old Times!! )

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