Reader ‘s opinion Is there a national landscape in the South Harbor of Helsinki?

At its best, the construction of the Museum of Architecture and Design in the South Harbor can bring a valuable addition to Finland’s national maritime landscape as a showcase. The threat, however, is the massiveness of the planned construction around the museum.

Suomenlinna, Senate Square, Kauppatori and Esplanadi, as well as views from the observation decks of Tähtitorninmäki, form the heart of maritime Helsinki. The shallow silhouette from the sea direction, dominated by empire architecture, is the business card of the city. Helsinki is one of the few capitals in Europe, with a direct connection to the archipelago and the open sea from its historic center.

It is hoped that the Museum of Architecture and Design, designed for the South Harbor, will add more to the series of cultural buildings in the capital and the attraction of the beach zone. Thanks to the financial promises, the project is closer than ever.

However, the extensive construction of business premises and services in the museum environment planned in the program of the warehouse and quality competition in the warehouse beach raises the question of whether the promises of new living beach blocks will be fulfilled.

From port operations the vacant, shady and elevated strip of shore is promised attractive space for the use of the townspeople. However, the right solution cannot be the massive building front “consecrated” by the museum.

The competition documents do not provide any justification as to why dense and tall construction would be appropriate for this central parade venue. As the competition program allows up to seven Stora Enso houses to be newly built in the area, even with good planning, it is not possible to maintain even the key prospects required by the competition program.

The decisions made will allow the area to be sold to a winner of a quality and concept competition, whose primary goal may be a productive real estate investment. There is a high risk that the volume of construction will start to increase after the competitive phase. After the sale of the land, will the city be able to set sufficiently binding quality requirements for the future real estate investor, especially when the resale of the real estate is not restricted?

Warehouse beach the project advertises producing lively beach boulevards and squares with cafes and restaurants. However, the sale of the area narrows the opportunities to create a new maritime urban space for all citizens.

New construction is in danger of being reduced to service and business premises closed to the general public by the sea. The narrow beach area shaded by the buildings is also not enough as a breeding ground for living beach activities, let alone pedestrian and cycling traffic.

The warehouse beach area would offer unique opportunities for a wide variety of maritime activities. Such could be activities related to the nature and cultural history of the Baltic Sea or Helsinki’s port activities and archipelago connections. They would also be of interest to the international public. The maritime national landscape is a rich cultural heritage shared by the people of Helsinki, the potential of which should be seized.

Aino Niskanen

Professor Emerita, History of Architecture, Helsinki

Mona Schalin

architect, Helsinki

Tiina Valpola

architect, Högfors, Karkkila

Reader opinions are speeches written by HS readers, selected and delivered by HS editorial. You can leave a comment or read the principles of the writing at



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