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Dodo’s 15th birthday in Kalasatama. Photo: Päivi Raivio

During the unusually warm summer of 2010, we have done some rather frequent bicycle trips to Kalasatama, to take care of our urban farm. At the same time, we had the chance to observe the urban life that has evolved around the harbour little by little, since the area was officially opened for the public in June 2010. It seems that the vast open areas in Kalasatama have opened up a totally new possibility for the people of Helsinki to enjoy the city, each in their own way. The place is like a big playground for people of all ages, manifesting a new culture of freedom – with a lot of space for creativity  and new perspectives to what you can do in the city.

During our bicycle rides around the harbour, we spotted people enjoying their summer in a relaxed way: occasional swimmers, basketball players, fishermen, barbecues and graffiti. The harbour has also been adopted by artists and art students, with projects that also engage other people to use and observe the area. The poetry workshop by artist Suvi Nurmi, for example, gathered people on Sunday afternoons, to create poems out of words the artist had collected from around the area.

A much more widespread way to fill the walls in the area was, unsurprisingly, graffiti. In July, Helsinki opened its second official graffiti wall next to the Hanasaari power plant in Kalasatama – but instantaneously also all the other fences around the area were filled with a fluctuating set of graffiti.

On the ‘container square’, different organisations, such as Dodo, Public School Helsinki, Active Seniors and the Seamen’s Church, produced an interesting mix of events – from drawing classes to open air cinema and traditional dancing – and brought people of different ages and backgrounds to the harbour. Dodo also celebrated its 15th birthday at the square – what could have been a more relevant spot for it? Another one of the many events, an experimental food and art event ‘1/5‘, was part of Katharina Moebus’ MA thesis at the Aalto University School of Art and Design. She will organise a series of food events and workshops in Helsinki, with the aim to “inspire thought about culture, identity, and the objects we consume, with a shared experience of eating”.

1/5. Photo: Katharina Moebus
Drawing class at the container square by Public School Helsinki

In many people’s opinion, a great and unique place – for others just bizarre – Kalasatama is likely to divide opinions. Tommi Laitio from Demos Helsinki visited the harbour with international press and the reactions ranged from:”This is AMAZING! Can I contact you later for an interview?” to: “Why are we here? There is nothing here. And it’s dirty”. However, the Finnish media, including the TV and Helsingin Sanomat, have embraced the Kalasatama phenomenon with a very positive attitude. Most of all, our urban bagfarm received great public attention – urban agriculture being now a hot topic worldwide, and especially the people in Helsinki, a spot of land for gardening is a common dream. »You can read more about our farming experiences here.

To celebrate the succesful urban farming experiment and our good yield, Dodo organised a harvest feast at the container square on 4th September. Featuring was also the new pizza oven ‘Archie‘. The incredible idea of a public oven was initiated by MA student Katharina Moebus together with Salla Kuuluvainen and Tanja Korvenmaa, who set up a workshop after they met through Public School Helsinki. The oven was built by a group of volunteers, using sand and tiles collected from the area, and clay from nothern Helsinki. The oven is now in public use, but reservations should be done beforehand.

With these good experiences from last summer, we are looking forward to see how this new eastern uptown area will develop in the coming years.

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