A division between North and South Haaga

After many hours of reading articles, brainstorming and talking with other coursemates, it seems that the research in order to get to my main research question can be endless. I could spend months on generating ideas but it is time to pick just one and stick with it. After having many doubts about getting everything done within the given time frame, I narrowed my previous idea about cultural places in Haaga to the division between North and South Haaga by studying Etelä-Haaga and Pohjois-Haaga libraries. Which leads to the research question: Is there a division between Northern and Southern Haaga within two public libraries? (libraries with 2,6 km distance between them)

Research methods:

Descriptions based on my own experience at these libraries as a first time visitor. 

Interviews with both library representatives, trying to understand how do they work together in one area and what kind of services each of the library offer. What are the main target audience and are there any events they are holding? Meanwhile, also get to know a bit about the history of both places and why do they think Haaga needs two public libraries. 

Observations. Spent one day, for instance, Thursday or Tuesday at each library from 12:00 till 20:00 and write down the things people usually do, how many people are coming and how much time do they spent there. Maybe also trying to get a small questionnaire with a couple of questions to get to know where the visitors are from and how often do they use the library. As well as, get to know if they are using the other library and how often.

Note: Similar selection of research methods have been discussed on James Gross article “Library Observation: On-Site Interview and Analysis of the Cherry Hill Public Library and the Drexel University Hagerty Library” (2009)

 

 

 

Hub of culture in Haaga

Last five weeks first year USP students, including myself, did several blog posts about different perspectives of Haaga. Our viewpoints were so different but still were overlapping or at least having the same main idea – find the main issues Haaga might be facing and considering the history of this district at the same time. Based on my trying to find cultural aspects in each blog post, I will try to combine my thoughts and decide on the possible research discourse.

When thinking about Haaga as a suburban area, it really seems like quiet, nice, green and yet quite boring neighborhood without a strong identity. As Alison L. Bain in the book “Creative Margins: Cultural Production in Canada Suburbs” describes suburb as a place where home is the center of everything, including necessary services like shopping mall, parking lots, public transportation etc. And what’s even more important, that all of these places are private or privatized.[1]So the way of making the suburbs more public and showing the cultural diversity and potential it has, the author outlines the benefits of “cultural hubs” or cultural centers in the creative city.[2] The main idea behind these hubs is to connect artists with the suburbs of the city and let them help to make the dialogue within this area. Meaning, that using the cultural worker creativeness they can “undercover” the uniqueness of the place.

Using the data from the QGIS course about jobs in Helsinki, it is interesting to look at the area Haaga and how many jobs in arts, entertainment and recreation there are. Looking at the first map below, it is clear that Haaga has a lack of places where the representatives from these fields could work. And if we compare the density of jobs in these fields with other districts, it is quite clear that all of them are located closer to the city center. Of course, the main players here are museums, theaters, opera, and other cultural organizations.

But this idea does not exclude the importance of rebuilding something from the past in order to make the feeling of being a part of the place. That reminds me about the lecture by Laura Kolbe, who introduced with the main aspects which make the city a great city. In the blog post “Nostalgia” I discovered one of many layers in the history of Haaga – cinema. The idea that the movie theater, which was remembered with very positive memories, could reborn makes me question the importance of cultural places in the suburbs. Meaning, that without the input from the locals there is no reason for planning anything.

In conclusion, in further research, I would like to study more about the cultural hub impact on the Haaga and understand the local people opinion about it. But, of course, it also involves working together with people from different professional backgrounds to be able to look at this case from different perspectives.

  1. Bain, L., Alison. Creative Margins: Cultural Production in Canadian Suburbs. 158pp
  2. Bain, L., Alison. Creative Margins: Cultural Production in Canadian Suburbs. 186pp

Diversity of cultural places

Continuing with the different perspectives which affect the cities, in this blog post I will be looking at the diversity of cultural places and will try to guess what could be the right amount of different cultural places in one suburb or area in the city.

Diversity, nowadays, is understood as something positive, something that involves changes. At the same time, not for all people changes associates with something good. When it comes to different social or ethical groups, the situation also can be seen as positive and negative. Referring to the lecture by Lotta Junnuilainen, who cited some phrases of interviews about people describing their neighborhood, the most common aspect to describe their lives was people living next to them. For example, some respondent described her neighborhood saying that it is safe if you do not go the bars or “those places”. Or others saying that they need to move out just because of the loud Turkish neighbors. These small phrases made me think about cultural diversity and cultural places within a certain area and what difference these aspects can make (by cultural places meaning places where people spent their spare time by their free will). And also keeping in mind different ethnical groups and the lack of interaction between them.

In the 21st century, there is no city without cultural diversity and not all of the people from the closest area goes to the church every Sunday. Maybe only the pub in the church located in the Utrecht, Netherlands. Due to globalization, the main issue cities are facing is how to keep the traditional core while still developing more open-minded places and spaces in the city. But if we look at the spaces in suburbs not in the center of the city, some of the small areas are lack of places where people could meet (except kindergarten or grocery stores). Otherwise, it seems that people are spending very little time in the area where they actually live. Therefore, there should be more diversity in the cultural places and services not only inside the city but in each small area. And not all districts need the same thing, still, there should be some choice. The reason why these places could help people to interact or just feel safer being in the same hallway or a bus stop is that it could create the feeling of being “one of them”. And it would tear down the stereotipes and would help to start an open dialogue between different people from different backgrounds.

So how to make enough diversity of cultural places in each district avoiding to built just services next to each other or inside the shopping mall? That is the question I am asking myself.

Materials within 25 steps

We (me and Karolina) decided to make a section for a place in the woods, which started from the closest tree to the forest trail and ended at the rocks on the other side of the trail. To get to know the area we measured it by walking, and it took about 25 regular steps to cross it. But it is was not enough to just walk it through so we started to touch the materials during the walk. The bark, spruce needles, leaves, moss, sand, cigarette bud, cones, rocks, and branches were the materials we collected to do the collage afterward. While exploring the scene with our hands, we felt that within 25 steps we are able to feel nature and human presence (even without any human being near us). 

Making the collage with all the materials we found on the ground, the smell and feel of materials took us back to the forest. And yes, we found important to put the cigarette bud and draw the utility pole because without these things it would be a romantic nature not nature within the city. 

 

Whereas the images reminded us of a bigger picture. The feeling of being in a capital city and in the middle of the 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.

In collaboration with Karolina Toivettula

Me, Myself and I

Moving from one place to another is not about the objects that make you feel cozy. And as every urban area involves diversity I cannot imagine living without it. Sofa in the woods? Diverse enough to start feeling welcome!

Nostalgia

For this weeks task, I wanted to go out there and try to find some historical evidence about cultural life in Haaga. As I do not have any previous knowledge about this certain place, the library in Aalto University was the beginning of the research. Out of many architecture books, the one called “Pohjois-Haaga Pohjantähti Helsingissä” by Riitta Oittinen and Pirkko Tepponen contained some guidelines for further research. 

First of all, the book contained information about the population from 1944 to 1997. The data shows a remarkable increase from the year 1955 till 1965. In these 10 years, the Haaga became filled with people, which also means an increase in the living space.

Source: Ross, John: Haagan kauppalan historia, 1950; Helsingin kaupungin tilastokeskus 1989.

In order to the area’s development, the new buildings and infrastructures were planned and built. But not all of the people from this neighborhood were accepting this fact. The poem about North Haaga describes the negative emotions that one has seeing constructions around.

When Northern Haaga is being built, 
when the forests and rocks are being destroyed, 
it feels as if I and my past is being taken apart. 
So let North Haaga be as it is, 
because I still want to live.

/Taira Yliluoma/ 

translation by Anna Ahlgren

And another memory from Anu Purhonen describes the forests taking down also as a loss. Writing that there is no place anymore where to go out with the dog. For someone, it can be just a mud but for others, it is the whole life. Unfortunately, these memories are not dated but as the book was published in 1989 than it should be connected with the active building processes in Haaga. 

From the cultural point of view, the most important places in the 50s and 60s were Kino Haaga (later changed to Kino Arita) and Thalia market. Firstly, finding the picture with well-dressed taxi drivers next to the Thalia market reminded me of the place we saw during the field trip. And it was the exact same place we visited in Haaga. I was surprised that there still is a sign TAXI in the same spot and some taxi drivers were there sitting on the benches. However, in the old picture, the square looks more like a lively public space, not the complete opposite which we can experience today.

Whereas, the second picture with movie theater called Arita led me to the interesting blog page called Nouseva Nostalgiaa Haagalaisittain. This blog contains a lot of interesting information about Haagas history. For example, the memories from the 50s about a movie theater. As Markku Poutanen recalls, he and his friends (10 to 15 boys) went to the movies almost every week. They watched Pekka and Pätkä movies as well as cartoons. Even though the films were black and white, it was exciting when the Tarzan movie started and the velvet curtains opened to the sides. The story shows how big role the kino played in the 50s and 60s. Sadly, it was closed in 1983. There are more interviews with the locals about kino Arita but it is all in Finnish. So translating not knowing the language would be too inaccurate.

However, during this little research about cultural meaningful places or events in the Haaga led me from several books in Aalto University to the blog full of interviews with locals and a map with most popular places in Haaga. The book was focussed on the Northern part of Haaga as well as the map contains more places located in the North part. It seems that Pohjois-Haaga was more lively than Southern part. For further research, it should be interesting to get to know is the division between North and South still present. As well as, where are the meaningful places located nowadays. 

    1. Oittinen, Riitta, Tepponen, Pirkko. Pohjois-Haaga Pohjantähti Helsingissä. 1989.
    2. http://www.nouseva.com/index.php?mod=7

 

Reconstruct Haaga

Holmberg, Werner Road in Häme

Haaga, place with a lot of history buried under the ground. What was the landscape people used to see in this area before the city was built? To reconstruct place like Haaga before 17th century should take not only historical facts but a good imagination and inspiration as well.

A Place like Haaga must have been one green area around the 17th century. Because looking at the old Helsinki maps the first urban plans in this area were made only in 1901 [1]. This leads to the assumption that the whole Western Helsinki area before the 17th century was covered with rocks, woods, and rich fauna. Unfortunately, there are no images from that time but the picture might have been similar to the typical Finnish landscape. Even though the first landscape paintings were made at the beginning of the 19th century, the view could not be that different from what was present in the 17th century. As long as this is just a guess, Haaga in the 17th century could have looked similar to the traditional landscape from the paintings in the 19th century. For a long time, the perfect Finnish landscape consisted of wild, human untouched nature near the lake pictured from above. But knowing that there were no lakes in Haagas area the picture should contain mostly woods and rocks. Luckily, in the Ateneum museum of art, the landscape exhibition contains a painting “A hot summer day” by Werner Holmberg. Nature in the painting is shown wild and even overpowering. Yet, the human presence gives dynamic and story behind. Despite the fact that this work was painted in 1860 it represents the landscape which could be also dated back to the 17th century. Using the imagination this picture could even present the road through the area Haaga. And as it is so close to the city of Helsinki, a lot of peasants and visitors from the Northern parts might have crossed some part of the area called Haaga.

The use of the land must have consisted of naturally grown food picking like mushrooms and berries, whereas the farmlands and gardens might have been located further away from the city Helsinki. And as there were no farms there were also no peasants living in the woods. So the chance this area was inhabited is quite little. More likely it was used as a natural material extraction point, for instance, for hunting. But most of the landscape must have been wilderness and wilderness goes hand in hand with traditional Finnish landscape. Even though people did not use the land for farms it is a cultural important aspect and it has been kept as a rural area because that was and still is one of the national and regional important heritage.

However, this is a reconstruction of Haaga in the 17th century using guesses and imagination. The same process what artist Werner Holmberg went through creating the painting. In art, there are no landscapes which would not contain only one part of realism and another part of imagination. The realism ends when the artist has done making sketches and even then – it is still a subjective view of a particular landscape. The same subjective view which is present in everything written above.

  1.  Aiotun Haagan Huvilakaupungin Asemakartta. https://yksa3.darchive.fi/YKSA3/public/archive/HELKA/Resource.action?uri=https://yksa.darchive.fi/resources/document/141269131070500/YAM100211

Hello everyone!

 


Couple of keywords 
to get to know me: 
aesthetics, minimalism, 
people, literature, 
film photography, 
theater, music, museums, 
contemporary dance, 
discoveries, factories, 
good food, qualitative 
conversations, diversity.