During this autumn I studied the phenomenon of place attachment in Haaga.
You can find my complete text here:
During this autumn I studied the phenomenon of place attachment in Haaga.
You can find my complete text here:
I have been running circles with ideas and potential interesting concepts. Finally I decided to kill a few darlings and came up with the final topic and method for my Studio 1 research.
In my studio work I decided to concentrate on the attachment university students living in Haaga have towards their home area. In my research I will gather ideas and theories from international research and conduct interviews with a handful of students. I will reflect their answers to the research and see do the students’ thoughts fit the international research and see, if something new comes up.
The reason I chose students as my focus group is that almost 20 percent of people living in Haaga are students. There are also a lot of student housing, even though there are no University of Helsinki of Aalto campuses on the area or even near it. There are two universities of applied sciences in the area and student housing is offered by HOAS and Perho. Over 50 percent of the housing in the area is rented, which makes it appealing to the students, who mostly live in rented housing. I want to see how students see the area they are living in. Haaga does not exactly scream hip and cool neighbourhood, so in that point of view I want to reveal what kind of living environment it is and is it comfortable and easy to love.
I know that in this time frame it is impossible to do a vast study on the area and all of its inhabitants. This is why I chose qualitative methods and open questions and a specific focus group. I will not try to empirically tell, how students experience Haaga. My goal is to see what comes up and based on research see, what are some of Haaga’s pros and cons and gather examples of place attachment from the students’ answers.
The main concept I will be using in my study is place attachment. Based on my research the concept has myriad of different definitions witch make it difficult to pinpoint. In my study I will use the point of view of Anton & Lawrence (2016) of place attachment. In this perspective the concept consists of two related dimensions: place dependence and place identity. My survey questions will be categorized based on international research to two different categories based on the dimensions of the concept. I will conduct the survey during week 47 and will start the writing process simultaneously.
I hope to receive at least 10 answers that will support the research that has been done beforehand. I of course hope to find something very specific features about Haaga that either support or reduce place attachment among students.
When searching information on what locals say about Haaga, I discovered that it is mostly depicted as a nice, quiet area that offers peaceful living and is surrounded by beautiful city nature. Negative comments concerned services and bad neighbours. After that I checked on Google Maps, what kind of services Haaga offers:
It was truly surprising that a district that consists of 5 subareas has nothing else to offer to its inhabitants than groceries and few stale beers at a local pub. It is true that Haaga is homey district in a traditional way and offers unique city nature, but winter in Finland is long, and one cannot expect for Haaga locals to find recreational activities outside all year round. Now the locals have to travel to other parts of Helsinki to seek leisure and cultural activities.
I have a couple of ideas of what I would like to explore in Haaga. Firstly, I would like to create a place where the locals could meet and spend time together. The place could offer culture, restaurants, cafes and free space where for instance local clubs or anyone else could host exhibitions or other type of events. Since Haaga does not offer these types of services yet, I think if executed in co-operation with the locals, the place could come in use. What I believe is fruitful in any project is the incorporation of the final users of the outcome.
Another idea that came into mind was that I would like to study, how in city planning level the reputation and the attractiveness of the area is taken in consideration. How is branding used, if it is used and what kind of choices are made in order to plan the area more attractive and functional. A project where something similar was done was executed in 2010-2017 in Riihimäki, a city where I was born. The project was called Peltosaari-projekti, of which purpose was to increase the value and attractiveness of the district by renewing and developing Peltosaari district that was built in the 1970’s. The project also tried to improve the safety, comfort and everyday life of residents and the commitment of residents to the development of residential activities and the maintenance of properties and areas. The main reason behind the project was Peltosaari’s poor reputation, low esteem and socio-economic problems. In Haaga the situation obviously is not this extreme, but Peltosaari case is definitely something to look into.
This said, my main focus points could be:
Links & references:
The sound were recorded at all the marked locations in the map. As it was a windy day, it might be hard to even hear the transition from one location to another. Close your eyes and enjoy the sound of urban nature!
We (me and Kamilla) decided to read place in the woods, Viikki rocks (Viikin kalliot). Our section went over a sandy forest trail on the other side to a top of a hill and on the other side to the rocks. We measured the section by walking, and came to the conclusion that it took about 25 regular steps to walk it from one end to another. We felt like we did not get enough of information by just walking through, so we started to touch and gather the materials from the nature exploring. The bark, spruce needles, leaves, moss, sand, cigarette bud, pine cones, rocks and branches were the materials we collected for the collage we would do afterwords. While exploring the scene with our hands, we felt that within 25 steps we are able to feel and understand nature and human presence – even without any human being near us.
We traced the section later on on Photoshop to have more explicit picture.
Making the collage with all materials we found on the ground, the smell and feel of materials connects us with place immediately.
Whereas the images reminds of a bigger picture. The feeling of being in a capital city and in the middle of forest was so strange. In first glance everything looked unfinished and nature-like, but with closer examination there were traces of human life everywhere: light pole, cigarette bud, some trash and even a poster of events in a nearby swimming hall. When we think of a city, we tend to forget about these types of places.
I come from social sciences, more specifically my background is in media and communications sciences. In that particular field I have not encountered density in any conceptual level, so from my perspective, it was relatively challenging to come up with a situation, phenomenon or a theory that could fit this week’s blog topic: density related feature of urban environment.
What came in to mind was how an individual can feel in a dense urban environment and how connected or isolated from others one can be. And another thing was how networked society has altered our relationships and made them at least partly mediated, so we can be in the middle of nowhere, but still feel a dense connection to our loved-ones via media. Or we can look seemingly lonely in crowded (or densely packed) tram but be chatting in Whatsapp group chats.
According to a scholar Mary Chayko the emergence of portable and networked communities has become the foundations of modern society in which interpersonal relationships are built and maintained synchronously despite distances. These mediated relationships may not be more or less reliable or meaningful than face relationships. (Deuze 2012, 193)
Empirical studies of experimental fusion between the social world and computer networks in local communities show how mediated communication has a rather positive impact on community interaction, community involvement and social capital, as it enables communication between friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Such mediated connections produce cultural diversity while promoting loyalty and traditionalism. Personalized mediated contacts of many people are mostly people who are already familiar with an earlier or ongoing face-to-face encounter. (Deuze 2012, 194)
Society has become mobile, which means that mobile devices increase the speed and volume of communication (Deuze 2012, 194). In mediated and increasingly mobile lifestyles, the media have changed so that they have become an automatic, irreplaceable and inseparable part of the individual’s activities, attitudes, and social interaction. They blend seamlessly into everyday life. (Deuze 2012, 209)
The media act as a daily metronome to rhythm social life. Mediation is reflected in the development and maintenance of social situations and relationships when digitalisation allows social relationships to be maintained regardless of time and place. Digitalisation has also brought with it the pressure on constant communication, ways of responding, certain types of communication in certain channels, and the blurring of boundaries between private and public life. (Couldry & Hepp 2017, 111.)
Online communication has become one of the default forms of interaction, and face-to-face or physically in the same state of interaction is no longer necessary or primal. Keeping in touch and being online can now be considered as the default, and “disconnected state” is much more abnormal and more visible. A silent period in a continuous communication stream is called “communicative silence”, often interpreted as a negative phenomenon. Communication silence is considered to be due to the inability of the individual, lack of commitment, or reluctance. (Couldry & Hepp 2017, 136.)
This density in modern day communications and way of being social is maybe not something that was expected to depict in this blog, it is something one can study and measure. The density of communication and the density of mediated relationships one can study, measure and even represent on a map if need be. Constant need to be in connection or available to other people can create bad urban environments, for instance an office where the workers cannot get a break to rest their thoughts between different interactions. Or an example of a good urban environment would be a long bus ride during which an individual can catch up on friends while traveling. It’s never black and white with media.
Couldry, N. & A. Hepp (2017). The Mediated Construction of Reality. Cambridge. Polity.
Deuze, M. (2012). Media life. Cambridge: Polity Press.
In this weeks blog I decided to approach Haaga from the viewpoint of the residents. How do they see Haaga, and if asked, what they tell about it to other people? I checked out couple of conversation forums (Vauva.fi) where people asked Haaga’s locals what is it like to live in Northern or Southern part of Haaga.
As a social scientist I found this perspective the most appealing and lucrative. There are two sides to people anonymously using their own words online and describing how they feel about the area they call home, but in spite of that I chose to use it in my research.
These posts were written in 2011 and describe what Etelä-Haaga is like:
“Southern Haaga has nice small apartment buildings and lots of nature around. But maybe you've already discovered that there is also a bit more affordable to live, which means that there are quite few services and in fact, traveling to the city center is not as smooth as it is claimed. Only if you live close to Huopalahti train station, you can claim that you can easily reach the city center. In reality, transport connections are the bus which runs Mannerheimintie for a long time. There is no tram. South Haaga is one of those places outside the city center, where a child's family needs a car of their own. Sure, if you have a car, then it will not be a problem that there are no big grocery stores in South Haaga.” “Pretty nice area. An old suburb where the houses are ideally situated in the environment and is not a flat suburban ghetto. The backdrop of this is that there are few parking lots in many houses. Quiet, there is not much hmm ... troublesome people. Good connections to downtown. "
And these posts were written in 2015-16 to describe what is it like to live in Pohjois-Haaga:
"I have lived in both Northern Haaga and near the old mall in Lassila (at the moment). Lassila is a really nice area, I do not understand why someone had previously scolded it. It is quiet here, peaceful, the train reaches the city center quickly, and I have not encountered a lot of troublesome people on the train. Nature is nice and there are bunnies, hedgehogs and squirrels hang in the yard :) the neighbors are calm, at least in this house, but the rented houses can have a different atmosphere.Almost all the apartments are owned in this house.Previously, I lived in Northern Haaga at SATO's rental apartment and it was just a pure hell. Upstairs there was some drug gang that trashed the place and the cops came and went. In the same stair, there were also multi-problem couples and brainless 24h party-people. And several times around the old grocery store, there were drunk people messing around. Lassila is neat, safe and good neighborhood for children. " "The North Haaga station is restless, I lived near the station and, I’m not lying, my apartment building was messed every week with graffiti. The services used to be bad but, nowadays Kaari offers more. Public transport is basically the M-train, and there you ride with people from Kannelmäki and Malminkartano. :D A pretty basic suburb, but if you have enough money, I recommend moving to Southern Haaga."
And to sum up…
According to my findings it seems that the Southern Haaga holds a much better reputation than the Northern Haaga. This is no surprise based on what I know from previous research. Southern Haaga has attractive nature, calm atmosphere and, if one is living near the Huopalahti station, good connections to Helsinki downtown. Some locals claimed that the connections to the city center by bus are not smooth. Also a one other con was that there are no bigger grocery stores in the area.
People have mixed feelings about Northern Haaga: some have encountered restless areas or troublesome neighbours and even criminals in their neighbourhoods, where as some see it as a peaceful area with good connections to city center, but then again, with few services. It seems that according to the locals, that the rented houses are not the most attractive ones in the area. Also beautiful and lively surrounding nature was mentioned as one of the positive sides of living in the Northern Haaga.
Before Haaga was a part of our capital Helsinki or even a part of Huopalahti, a former neighboring town of Helsinki, it was a secluded nature area. After the Ice Age Haaga was almost completely covered by the Baltic sea (Picture 1), gradually sea levels changed and made room for forest and lakes that Finland is nowadays known from.
Picture 1. The ancient sea level over Haaga.
Haaga is situated in Southern part of Finland, in the hemiboreal area and as such it is grove-like fabric or temperate broadleaf or mixed forest. So before being Helsinki, before being an independent borough and before being a part of Huopalahti villa city, Haaga was a forest full of different species and different ecosystems. The grove actually has a very diverse vegetation and the most varied species of woods in Finland, and moreover, the greatest wood production. Groves have typically leafy trees, but not without exceptions.
These types of forests were home to many different types of animals – most likely to squirrels, foxes, rabbits, deer and hundreds types of different birds. Because of lack of people perhaps even bigger mammals like bears, wolves and lynxes were more ubiquitous.
So at a time before city structure, in the 17th century to the most of 18th century Haaga was cover with rich vegetation. In Haaga’s forests one could stumble upon to firs, birches, aspens, albers, willows and pine trees. The underbush was pretty scarce in these woods, since the thick leaves and long branches stole most of the sun light before it could reach the ground. This is actually something I was able to detect from old paintings and drawings from Huopalahti estate (Picture 3.) which was dismantled when Vihti road was constructed in the 1960’s – it was located somewhere either in Northern or Southern Haaga.
Picture 2. Huopalahden kartano, Hoplaks gård i Helsinge socken; maalaus. Wright Magnus von, Tekijä 1844. Kuvaustiedot: G2742 Mari Valio HKM 2017, mv, laakadia. Helsingin kaupunginmuseo.
In the picture painted by Wright von Magnus in the 19th century, the Huopalahti estate is surrounded by a thick forest that seems to continue to eternity. Just in front of the estate there is a large field and a walkway that is bordered with trees. This suggests that the soil in the area is fertile and suited for agricultural use. Also the forest trees are just what one could expect when looking at a mixed forest in Southern Finland: there is a large birch on the far right, willows, aspens and other leafy trees. But on top of the hill, where the assumed spectator iis standing, there are some small firs near mossy rocks, making it indeed a mixed forest area.
Picture 4. Huopalahden kartano, teoksesta Finland framställdt i teckningar 1845-1852.; grafiikka. Wright Magnus von (orig.) / Adler ja Dietze, Tekijä 1845–1852. Kuvaustiedot: G35923 Valio Mari HKM 2017. Helsingin kaupunginmuseo.
When looking at another picture of the empirical styled estate, it becomes clear that the area is very rocky. On this side of the estate there is more variety in the trees surrounding it: there are even bigger firs around and even some twigs on the rocks among the moss suggesting that the soil must be more bitter and dryer than on the other side of the estate. Today this sour soil is wonderfully taken advantage of in Alppiruusupuisto, Rhododendron park, in which the plants flourish beautifully.
I’m Karolina, a master’s student in Urban Studies and Planning.
My background is in Social sciences, particularly in Media and Communications and Sociology.
I am interested in…
… among many other things.
And a bunch of other things I cannot remember at this moment.
Nice to meet you! 🌸🍒✨