Finland is buzzing with projects that reflect a new megatrend in urban regeneration. Tired of lengthy planning and permission-driven processes, a new breed of creatives borrowing from art, architecture, design, social sciences, gardening and more is coming together in formal and informal practices to stage innovative interventions that involve local people in participatory transitions. On Friday September 14th, a group of urban activists and organizers came together to talk about the current state of pop-up urbanism in Finland and abroad. The meeting was hosted by Thomas Ermacora from Clear Village, London; the other participants represented a range of Helsinki-based organizations, such as Aalto University, Alternative Design Capital, Bermuda Helsinki, Cleaning Day, Dodo, Made in Kallio, Pixelache, School of Activism and of course, Reality Research Center.
The aim of the meeting was to create new connections and strengthen the existing ones in order to give rise to a more prominent and organized field of urban activity in Helsinki. During the three-hour discussion, it became evident that the current projects and movements do not share one single agenda and therefore cannot be grouped under a uniform umbrella organization. However, they do have enough in common to support each other in the attempt to reach a more prominent position in society - a lot of the people present expressed a wish to become more professional and to create structures that enable the projects to keep going when the first wave of enthusiasm and voluntary work power wears out. This would require wider recognition and support from governmental organizations, urban planners and mass media - a level of acknowledgement and understanding that can only be reached through a process of de-marginalization, open communication, cross-disciplinary translation and proactive representation. Those of us who are still sitting in the trenches need to stand up, not only for themselves but also for (the sake of) others.
Despite the variety of issues and potential challenges that came up during the meeting, we did manage to take some practical steps towards creating new synergy between the groups. We agreed to create a platform for communication and sharing, which would eventually give rise to a shared database covering all the projects that wish to be involved. Together, the projects would form Prototype Helsinki - a forum for developing and testing new solutions and models for the urban environment in the Helsinki Metropolitan Region.
The network is open to anyone - if you have an initiative, group or organization that would benefit from taking part in this project, please contact us!
Saara Hannula, saarahan(at)gmail.com / Thomas Ermacora, thomas(at)clear-village.org