The built environment of Helsinki, Finland illustrates a tale of modernism in its local specificity, revealing cultural values and traditions in the larger context of urbanization, industrialization, and globalization. Helsinki was built around a harbor in the 16th century and has more than 120 kilometers of seashore. Since the late 19th century, the shoreline has been gradually altered as islands have been incorporated into the mainland and bays have been filled. As in other coastal cities, the waterfront districts of Helsinki are today undergoing major transformations yet again. The industrial uses that took over in the latter half of the 19th century, leading to the closing off of the waterfront areas, are making way for new public uses today.
The exhibition “WAY - seaWAY, railWAY, bikeWAY” traces the course of development during the past 200 years along the urban axis leading from Helsinki’s West Harbour to the former Töölönlahti railyard area in the city center. This axis concretizes itself in Baana, a former harbor rail corridor converted into a cross-city pedestrian and biking route. Baana also acts as the focal point of the exhibition concept illustrating three different WAYs, each representing a different historical era with its characteristic way of life, ideologies and organization of urban space: seaWAY, railWAY and bikeWAY.
Looking at architecture and urban planning as instruments for shaping public space and thereby also for organizing life, the exploration of this axis connecting the shore and the city center sketches the story of the historical transformation of a northern coastal city from the early industrial period through the contemporary moment and into visions for the future. The transformation of the city is both deeply embedded in the local context and also essentially part of a broader global world. The subject is discussed with the help of a visual timeline of a multilayered installation, depicting both the physical and cultural changes in Helsinki over time. In addition to presenting the three Helsinki WAYs, the exhibition also prompts visitors to bring insight into and give examples of other WAYs out there.
The exhibition is produced by the Museum of Finnish Architecture in collaboration with the Architecture Information Center Finland and the Helsinki City Planning Department. The curatorial team is led by Juulia Kauste, Director of the Museum of Finnish Architecture. Professor Panu Lehtovuori from the Tampere University of Technology and Architect Jari Huhtaniemi from the Helsinki City Planning Department act as curatorial advisors. The WAY exhibition concept is designed by Tuomo Tammenpää, and realized by Juho Haavisto of the Museum of Finnish Architecture.