Urban Explorations

What to do with abandoned, liminal spaces in cities? Should the city’s inhabitants be let to make use of them? And how to design a space where everyone feels welcome?

These are some of the questions that I have been facing lately in conjunction with my university studies.

I have always been interested in terrains vagues, so-called “dead zones” in different cities. The term was coined by the architect-philosopher Ignasi de Solà-Morales Rubió, who has famously stated that “When architecture and urban design project their desire onto a vacant space a terrain vague, they seem incapable of doing anything other than introducing violent trasformations, changing estrangements into citizenship, and striving at all costs to dissolve the uncontaminated magic of the obsolete in the efficacy”.

Considering this statement, I wonder if another kind of transformation of a “dead zone” could also take place – such as for example the transformation of the Tempelhof airport into a party location in Berlin?

I’m currently participating in two different courses related to the aesthetics of space and spatial design at the University of Helsinki. I’m fascinated by the hands-on part of the curriculum this spring, as it also involves a small-scale hands-on urban development project in the “Marian sairaala” area of Helsinki.

The work on this project kicks off tomorrow with lectures and two workshop type sessions with other students and our Project Manager, Rami Ratvio. The “Marian sairaala” area is an abandoned hospital site in Helsinki, in the close proximity of the residential coastline areas of Jätkäsaari and Ruoholahti, where I spent most of my childhood as these parts of the city were still in the middle of their construction.

The city of Helsinki is currently planning on transforming the hospital area into a new use, and this, mainly, is what this cross-disciplinary course is all about. The participants of this project are planning on organizing a public block party or a small-scale festival event to take place in the hospital premises one month from now.

While the concept of this event is still to be discussed and refined, yesterday I found myself browsing the internet for different modular venues for such parties.

As the designated area is very close to the coastline, cargo containers would certainly complement the overall venue. They would make for an affordable and a practical choice for constructing various spatial structures in the area, as well as a strong visual element. While we have yet to make any decisions on utilizing these type of elements and the outside area of the premises, I find the containers inspirational.

See different container venues constructed by the Berlin company “2X20 FT”:

http://www.twotimestwentyfeet.com/

Read more about the University of Helsinki course “Tilapioneerit”:

http://tilapioneerit.fi

Author: Iiris Konttinen

I am a digital service design and digital marketing professional based in Helsinki, Finland.