Free City of Kalasatama

In recent years, there has been a lot of temporary activities in Kalasatama, Helsinki, like Container Square, urban culture, graffiti, skating, Sompasauna and various events. I wanted to preserve the spirit of this Kalasatama, which has brought the much needed freedom to the city center. To create space for self-reliance, collaboration, art, culture, and people. And try, what we can achieve together.

And thus Kalasataman Vapaakaupunki, Free City of Kalasatama, was born

In the first phase of Kalasataman Vapaakaupunki Suvilahti became a new urban oasis for two months (18 May – 15 July 2018). Respecting the heritage of the area it is built using containers, which adapt to the scene of various events. In addition to the containers, there are also barbecue facilities and a park with urban gardening.

Kalasataman Vapaakaupunki is for us all. There anyone can arrange an event free of charge, as long as it’s open, free and fits with the values ​​and spirit of Vapaakaupunki. We also help with the arrangements and offer for example electricity, audio technology and also a sound technician for the event organisers free of charge.

Anyone can go to the Kalasataman Vapaakaupunki any time. Even if there is no program there, you can go for a picnic or just to spend a summer day there. We also offer grills for use when there are events happening in Vapaakaupunki.

Free City of Kalasatama became a big success in its first phase. In the course of two months, there were about 30 music events and, in addition, yoga, capoeira, sewing workshop and more special events such as a wrestling show.

The main partner of the project is the new REDI shopping center in the region, but it has not affected the content of the site in any way. And this is how you do good things together: by trusting people. Continuation for Vapaakaupunki is already planned.




Pasila Street Art District

Definitely the biggest and for me most important street art project, which I’ve been doing is Pasila Street Art District. For years I had thought that many gray walls in this 1970s area would be a perfect place for street art. In 2017, I finally did something to change the situation with Helsinki Urban Art. It was difficult to find funding for the project, but partly due to the 100th anniversary of Finland, many embassies and cultural institutes wanted to support the project and bring many top level international artist to paint in the area.

The artists curated for the project represent a wide variety of styles and techniques, and many of them have painted in different parts of the world. Pasila Street Art District introduces the kind of street art that is hard to come by elsewhere in Finland. It is a place where artists get lots of artistic freedom and can test their limits. Some artists are invited to paint with the help of our partners, but it is also a place where local artists can show their skills and visiting international artists can leave their mark.

By the autumn of 2018, the area has already got over 40 works of art, which has changed the look and image of the area completely. The previously forgotten area has begun to attract both Helsinkiers, tourists and school classes. And local people have finally got the color and art they wanted on their walls.




Helsinki Urban Art

Helsinki Urban Art is a non-governmental organisation specialised in urban art that I was founding in the beginning of 2017. The purpose of the association is to make art that enlivens urban environments in Helsinki as well as in other cities in Finland and abroad. We introduce new ways of using urban space, create participatory urban culture and solve problems by means of art and activism.

Helsinki Urban Art was created on the basis of the More Street Art in Helsinki -project that created several street art pieces in 2016 which enlivened the urban environment. Helsinki Urban Art expands this activity and brings even more art and more versatile forms of art into the urban space.

Helsinki Urban Art is formed by a group of professionals in visual arts, community arts and urban activism. Involving the communities and respecting the special characteristics of the places is important to us: we want the art that we create to really work in its environment and to suit the needs of the locals. Our team has a lot of experience in producing large murals, different sized street art pieces as well as coordinating large participatory art projects and different urban events. We also collaborate with many people working in the field of urban art both in Finland and abroad.





Konepaja Movement

I myself live in Helsinki in the area of Konepaja, which is an area where they used to build train engines and train cars. Currently the area is a combination of new apartment buildings and historical red brick warehouses. After the previous industry left the site, a lot of cultural activity has been sparked in the area and office spaces have been created into the old industrial buildings. Konepaja area has become an area that not only attracts people into new houses, but also draws in different kinds of actors, events and visitors from different parts of the city.

To get these different parties together, to create a more communal spirit to the area, and to use the full potential of the historical machine workshop buildings, Antti Möller, myself and a few other residents started Konepaja Movement in November 2016. The movement became very topical a few days later, when the construction supply shop Bauhaus announced its plan to build a massive shop and a parking space in the area.

These plans were completely different to those that the residents, the current renters and the city had in mind. We collected information about what the situation with the building and the detailed plan was, and shared it on social media. The special exception application submitted by Bauhaus to the city, which would allow them to make changes to the detailed plan and go through with the building project, received an enormous amount of negative feedback. The city received more than 500 notes on the plan, when normally they would get one or two, and in the end the City Planning Committee ended up opposing the plan.

Konepaja Movement has from the beginning wanted to develop the area into a more positive direction, not just oppose something. We started to bring the people interested in the area together and created our own preliminary plan for the future use of the buildings to create conversation and to show that there are alternative options.

Since it became clear that buying the buildings would not be possible without the help of a wealthy investor, I also contacted Bruce Oreck, the former United States ambassador and real estate investor.  He got enthusiastic about the area to the extent that he wanted to buy the same buildings that Bauhaus sought. But this time it was made in a totally different way: we organised a meeting with the local people to discuss about the plans. More than 300 people came to the meeting, where all supported this new alternative. After many twists and turns the deal was also made, and now the Konepajan alue is finally being developed in the direction that the inhabitants wanted. Within a few years, it is expected to be one of the most interesting places in the city and the new centre of creative industries.


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Stories from the Reception Centre

The voice of the asylum seekers is often left unheard in the public debate. We hear a lot about how many refugees are arriving and from which countries, but the people behind the numbers are often left outside. This can cause prejudice against the newcomers, because it is so easy to be afraid of something you don’t know. Many people forget that the refugees are just people who have had to leave their family members and their everyday lives behind.

In the summer of 2015, as the number of the refugees were growing all over Europe I wanted to do my part in affecting the situation. To demonstrate how behind all the numbers and news there are actual people with actual worries, I started the Stories from the Reception Centre project together with some volunteer reporters, photographers and interpreters. We went into the reception centres to interview the inhabitants, to take photographs of them (so that you won’t recognize them) and to post the story formed by these elements into Facebook, in Finnish and in English. By bringing the people and their stories into people’s awareness we wanted to increase the mutual understanding of the Finns and the refugees. The site received a lot of followers and the project got a lot of positive attention. In March-April 2016 there will also be an exhibition based on the project at the culture centre Stoa in eastern Helsinki.


Social Innovators Connected

The idea for the Social Innovators Connected network came up in a seminar arranged in Copenhagen, where I met other nordic activist, collectives and grass-root actors. I noticed how many ideas and ethusiastic people there were in neighbouring countries, and yet we didn’t know anything about each other. And so we often end up making the same mistakes and re-invent the wheel over and over again. This is what I wanted to change. And so, in a coffee shop in Copenhagen, Social Innovators Connected was founded.

Social Innovators Connected brings together European makers of social innovations and events both online and in the real world. The network, started by me at the end of 2013, had its first conference in Helsinki 3.-6.9.2014, arranged by Yhteismaa. SIC!2014 Helsinki conference offered social innovators, grass-root actors, urban activists, communities and collectives an opportunity to build networks, learn from one another, share ideas and come together to solve global issues.

The conference in Helsinki was a starting point for a more broad, international collaboration and in 2015 similar conferences were arranged in Riga and Rome. Additionally, there was a networking trip to Sweden, Norway and Denmark organised for the Finnish makers. In case there will be funding, the network is going to arrange similar conferences to strengthen and develop the movement of innovations in Europe, to create multicultural dialogue and to make international co-operation possible.  



More Street Art in Helsinki

More Street Art in Helsinki is a project that I started with the street art group G-REX that uses street art to eliven the streets of Helsinki. The main goal of the project is to make large murals wherever in the city there is the biggest need for them. The project aims to raise the profile of legal, high-quality and world class mural art in Finland and offer alternatives for the commercial imagery in the urban space.

In the years 1998-2008 the city of Helsinki had zero tolerance policy for graffitis, which is why there hasn’t been a very strong street art culture in the city. In recent years the policies about street art have become more positive. We want to be a part of making progress with street art in Finland and show how many positive influences it can have.

In the summer of 2016 the project ran a contest called More Street Art For Your Hoods, where people could suggest places in Helsinki for new street art. Three winning locations were chosen, two of which are located in the neighbourhood of Kannelmäki and one in Roihuvuori. In September Maikki Rantala painted a participatory street art piece in Kannelmäki, on the wall of a building located at Trumpettitie 2. To Roihuvuori, at the address Prinssintie 4 we received a piece from the polish street artist Otecki. The third mural by Milu Correch will be painted on the wall of an elderly care home in the summer of 2017.

Through More Street Art In Helsinki anyone can now order street art to their own wall. The project will find the right artist for the location, deal with all the practical arrangements and take care of the necessary bureaucracy. We currently working on a model together with the city of Helsinki, which aims to make the acquiring of street art easier and decrease the unnecessary bureaucracy related to it.

In 2017 we created on the basis of the More Street Art in Helsinki -project a new association Helsinki Urban Art, which expands this activity and brings even more art and more versatile forms of art into the urban space.



Hoffice Helsinki

Hoffice Helsinki is a community and a network that turns homes and other spaces into creative and communal working spaces. It is aimed at all those who work independently but would like a supporting and social working environment. It’s also an opportunity to meet new people and to use the existing spaces more efficiently. The concept is free: you are not required to pay to participate and the possible lunch is at your own cost.

At Hoffice the working day is divided into periods of 45 minutes, between which you have a 15 minute break. Before the working period begins, every participant is supposed to explain what they are going to achieve during the day to the others, and the results of the work are shared during the breaks.

Hoffice was founded in Stockholm in November 2013. I got to know the concept when I visited Stockholm in January 2015, and instantly founded a Hoffice-group in Helsinki, too. I had already thought about opening my home to be used as an office, and the concept of Hoffice was so good that I wanted to bring it to Finland as well. Hoffice turned out to be a very good way of working, and I occasionally still arrange Hoffice-days at my home. In fact, this text was also written at Hoffice.


Cities in Transition

Together we create the city of tomorrow, starting today. Our cities are in transition. Also, the role the city fulfils in our society is changing. We connect people that are actively engaged in the livability of their cities. We call them City Makers – an honourable title.

This is how the Cities in Transition-project, founded in The Netherlands, describes itself. “The city makers” have an active role in shaping the urban life. This has been recognized also nationally, which is why in The Netherlands a nationwide City Makers-network was created, and people in this network are supported in many ways. Now one City Maker from every capital of every EU country has been invited to extend this idea to the entire European Union and to plan a EU City Maker Agenda. I was chosen to represent Helsinki, and I’m excited to see what we will achieve together.