No rain can dampen this unprejudiced spirit.

IMG_3031

The Barbeque Without Prejudice held on Wednesday this week was a huge success. Non-stop rain did not dampen the atmosphere and over 100 people turned up to barbeque and boogie to tunes by Sammy Bone, Kalin, Feema, Obi Phrase, Bizzyiam, and some impromptu jamming.

Massive thanks to everyone who turned up and made the night memorable, as well as to Teurastamo for lending us the space. An equally big thanks to Hirundo, the Free Movement Network, FRC Against racism!, Liikkukaa! ry, Harjun Nuorisotalo, Amnesty International Finland, and Shalin Finland who made the event possible.

All photos are courtesy of Greg Pellechi.

IMG_2832

IMG_2669

IMG_2851

IMG_2859

IMG_2760

IMG_2759

IMG_3116

IMG_3097

IMG_3110

IMG_3089

IMG_3055

IMG_3073

IMG_2823

IMG_2782

IMG_2777

IMG_2763

IMG_2775

IMG_2766

IMG_2741

IMG_2736

IMG_2730

IMG_2720

IMG_2724

IMG_2728

IMG_2713

IMG_2695

IMG_2676

IMG_2682

IMG_2688

IMG_3122

Och var ska vi parkera nu?

munkka parkering

Om drygt en månad tas boende- och företagsparkering i bruk i Munksnäs där jag bor. Jag äger inte en bil, så man kunde tycka att denna förändring från gratisparkering till betalparkering har en minimal inverkan på mig. Det skulle dock vara fel.

Om vi hade en egen bil, kunde vi betala 9 euro per månad för att parkera den vid vår bostad. Det känns som en rimlig summa. Men då vi inte har en egen bil utan med jämna mellanrum lånar min mammas bil från Vanda, så kan vi inte ansöka om boendeparkering i Munksnäs (och även om vi kunde, borde vi då betala fulla 9 euro för ett par dagars parkering). Så under de få dagar då vi behöver en bil får vi, om dessa är veckodagar, parkera den endast 4h i sträck mellan 8 och 20. Det kan bli krångligt.

Det är svårt att inte se detta system som något som bestraffar personer och hushåll utan bil, men med behov för bil enstaka gånger i månaden. Enligt Byggnadskontoret kommer en gratis parkeringplats finnas i Munkka även efter den första oktober – den får vi alla sedan tävla om plats i.

Det tokiga är även att i de 5 månader jag bott i området har jag aldrig haft svårigheter med att hitta parkeringsplats. Så utöver att bytet till betalparkering leder till mera pengar för staden (inte en helt dålig sak), kommer förändringen knappast att förbättra parkering för invånarna i Munksnäs, och för somliga – som jag – kommer situationen att bli värre. Är poängen med det hela då endast att öka storleken på stadens kassa?

Jag är medveten om att detta är en fråga som inte berör endast Munksnäs, och i själva verket har drabbat billösa, tillfälliga bilister i andra delar av staden redan länge. Men det gör frågan om varför Byggnadskontoret inte hittar på ett bättre system ännu mer relevant. Stadsbor som går, cyklar, och använder kollektivtrafik borde inte bestraffas för de få gånger vi behöver låna en bil. Det kan ju inte vara så svårt att utveckla ett nät-baserat system där Helsingfors invånare kan köpa tillfälliga parkeringslov för områden de bor i? Även om bilen de användar råkar härstamma i Vanda.

Welcome to a Barbeque Without Prejudice

Grillijuhlat_A3

Some time ago on this blog, I wrote about how the presence of migrant Roma in the Teurastamo area in Helsinki was causing tensions with the local residents. I suggested that the people who run Teurastamo organise a meet-and-greet barbeque between locals and the Roma, to allay fears and promote understanding. I also said I could do the organising if needed.

A few months later and I’m pleased to announce that the Barbeque Without Prejudice will take place on Sep. 2 at the Teurastamo grill. Organised with support from Hirundo, the Free Movement Network, Against racism!, Liikkukaa! ry, Harjun Nuorisotalo, Amnesty International Finland, and Shalin Finland, the event celebrates and demonstrates that the Teurastamo BBQ, and indeed all of Helsinki, belongs to everyone.

The BBQ is held potluck-style, so bring some grub and a positive attitude, we’ll bring the charcoal and hopefully good weather (we’ll bring tents too if the weather isn’t cooperative). To find out more, head to our Facebook event page here.

Reflections on the death of a cyclist.

ghostbike

Helsinki got its second ever ghost bike last week. That’s nothing to brag about, given that ghost bikes are memorials for killed or severely injured cyclists. A few more would reflect the real number of cyclists killed in Helsinki – according to local police, seven cyclists have lost their lives in various collisions since 2001.

Relatively speaking, that’s a pretty good statistic; in London 13 cyclists were killed in 2014 alone, and even in cities of more comparable size such as Stockholm and Copenhagen, 2-3 cyclists lose their lives annually (though more people cycle in Copenhagen than Helsinki).

That doesn’t mean all is well on the cycling front in Helsinki however, and the suspected manslaughter (murder?) of the yet-to-be named cyclist last week has generated a lot of discussion and soul searching. On the one side, there have those blaming car drivers for not paying enough attention to cyclists, and in some cases acting aggressively towards those on two wheels.

On the other, there have been those looking inward, highlighting the behaviour and riding-manner of some cyclists as aggressive and dangerous. And everything in between. What the ensuing debate has made blatantly clear however, is that we have a problem, or more correctly, problems. Road users with different modes of transportation seem unable to share the space allotted to them.

I experience this every time I cycle into town. Pedestrians invariably wander into the bike lane, seemingly oblivious to where they are walking. Fast-going, male cyclists – too often without a helmet – ignore red lights and cross roads at will. Car drivers don’t look around and turn onto zebra crossings without even thinking a cyclist or pedestrian may be about to cross. And so on and so forth – and I cycle almost exclusively on bike lanes.

It’s a sad state of affairs, where everyone seems to get annoyed with everyone else. Last week, that annoyance went overboard with a driver intentionally hitting a cyclist and subsequently killing him. The driver, since arrested, probably destroyed his own life to boot.

Various measures can be taken to prevent more tragedies like this one in the future, ranging from construction of more bike lanes to improved overall planning of traffic flow. The most important change that needs to happen however is in road users’ attitudes. We need to move away from thinking that the road belongs to [enter name of group you belong to]. Roads are common, public spaces. They’re not for cars. They’re not for bikes. They’re not for pedestrians or skateboarders. They’re for all of the above, equally. The sooner we get that into our heads, and traffic planners start implementing the idea, the sooner we’ll have safer streets for all.

Vantaa housing fair fails to inspire, despite some highlights.

IMG_2268

The annual Finnish housing fair, this year held in the suburb of Kivistö, Vantaa, is wrapping up this weekend. Not wanting it miss out, my mother and I headed there earlier today for a look at what’s new and trendy in the world housing, construction, and design.

Our little excursion started off very well. Leaving the car at home, we took advantage of the recently inaugurated train line to the airport, which stops at Kivistö. From the train station, it was less than a kilometre to the fair but free transportation was provided. In fact, not only one but two different types of free transport were offered: regular buses and automated, driverless vehicles. We obviously opted for the latter, though it made for a significantly longer run.

The French-made CityMobil2 prototypes were able to take 10 passengers in addition to the on-board guide. Moving along a pre-determined path, their maximum speed was 13km/h, for safety reasons: if the vehicle’s guiding lasers spot an obstruction in the road, the vehicle makes an immediate stop. At one point during the short journey, our guide warned us to hold on as we were entering an area with lots of pollen in the air – the vehicle’s laser might mistake the pollen for obstructions and come to a sudden, immediate, halt.

The CityMobil2 prototype.

The CityMobil2 prototype.

There was no excessive pollen this time however, and we made it to the fair’s entrance without a hitch. Well inside, our first stop was Europe’s largest wooden apartment building, PuuMera. It features 186 apartments over seven floors, with most apartments measuring between 50-60m². I love the concept – wood after all is a renewable resource (at least in Finland) – and I liked the wooden floors and large balconies of the apartments. The exterior is nothing special, but also not displeasing to the eye (my eye). Still, all the apartments on view had only one bedroom, which can get a bit tight if there’s more than one of you.

The PuuMera wooden apartment building.

The PuuMera wooden apartment building.

Our next stop was similarly an apartment building, Opaali, featuring extensive use of wood. I really liked the wooden facade, though that seemed to be one side of the building only. The apartments inside had been decorated with creativity: one was a mock-80s style home with lots of items I remember my parents having when I was growing up. The interior of another apartment had been designed exclusively by youth involved in a programme run by Vantaa city, with the flat furnished for a fictive boy named Kimi. While the furnishings were fun, I wasn’t a fan of the indoor spaces in the building overall – the narrow windows allow for far too little light to seep in.

I loved the wooden facade.

I loved the wooden facade.

Unfortunately, it seems the wood is featured on only one of the exterior walls of the building.

Unfortunately, it seems the wood is featured on only one of the exterior walls of the building.

One more picture of the gorgeous wooden facade...

One more picture of the gorgeous wooden facade…

One of the apartments in the Opaali apartment building had been furnished 80s-style as part of a project an between students and a local museum.

One of the apartments in the Opaali apartment building had been furnished 80s-style as part of a project an between students and a local museum.

We then headed to the “omakotitalo” section. I use the Finnsh word “omakotitalo”, which translates as “ownhomehouse”, for lack of a good English word for them. Essentially we’re talking about suburban housing, but the Finnish word (as well as the equivalent in Swedish “egnahemshus”) just seems to mean so much more.

Be that as it may, the majority of the housing showcased at the fair were actual houses. Most of them were not inspiring. They were big houses with pretty traditional lay-outs, white walls, and furniture. Some had custom-made Swarovski crystal chandeliers. Others had pools or jacuzzis (they were really selling jacuzzis at the fair). Some, to their credit, showcased new construction technology, like the “dry-safe house” (basically a house that is especially built not to go damp – Brits take note). But the majority of the houses left me either indifferent or unimpressed.

A custom-made Swarowski crystal chandelier.  definitely not for me.

A custom-made Swarovski crystal chandelier. definitely not for me.

A few houses stood out, however. I was a big fan of the Kontio Harunire house, built for a Finnish-Japanese family. The extenisve use of wood both in the building’s exterior and interior and the selective interior design featuring lots of Finnish design classics made me feel right at home.

Corner in the open-plan living room.

Corner in the open-plan living room.

Also part of the living room.

Also part of the living room.

Upstairs study.

Upstairs study.

Master bedroom.

Master bedroom.

Guest room.

Guest room.

Another one that got a wow from both me and my mother straight upon entrance was the Villa Kapee timber house. It had great space solutions, was light and airy, and just had the feel of a real home. We weren’t so sure about the black exterior though, and the ceiling came a bit too low by the upper landing of the stairs.

Villa Kapee.

Villa Kapee.

Open-plan living room.

Open-plan living room.

Open plan kitchen/dining room.

Open plan kitchen/dining room.

Ceiling came a bit low going up the stairs.. Sign reads: Don't hit your head!

Ceiling came a bit low going up the stairs.. Sign reads: Don’t hit your head!

Kid's bedroom upstairs.

Kid’s bedroom upstairs.

With reference to the two houses described above, my mother made an interesting comment. While she liked the houses overall, she said she wouldn’t want to live in either of them – with their interior walls made of wood they remind her too much of summer houses and cabins. I think she’s right, there is a similarity, and I wonder if Kontio Harunire and Villa Kapee represent some sort of a moulding together of the summer and suburban house aesthetic in Finland.

A final favourite was the StudioKoti (StudioHome). Measuring just 15.5 m², or just over 20m² if you count in the loft, it features genius space solutions using every square metre of the apartment. Perfect for students, the plan is to rent the studios for 500 euros a month, which (sadly) represents a bargain in the current realty market. Not that any have actually been built yet: the parties behind the studio are still fighting redtape and regulations to get building permission for a block of these ingenious studio flats.

The StudioKoti - small on the outside, roomy on the inside.

The StudioKoti – small on the outside, roomy on the inside.

Living room corner.

Living room corner.

the bathroom is surprisingly spacious.

The bathroom is surprisingly spacious.

The bedroom is on the loft.

The bedroom is on the loft.

I left the fair with mixed feelings. There were definitely some cool things and approaches showcased, such as the extensive outdoor spaces from balconies to yards, but too many of the suburban houses did not move me. The interior designs in particular were uninspiring, and my expectation of seeing solar panels on every roof was not met (although I did see them on some). But then again I’m not in the market to buy a suburban house.

Here are some more of my shots:

I really liked the wooden exterior of this house, known as Honka Savukvartsi.

I really liked the wooden exterior of this house, known as Honka Savukvartsi.

I wish they'd been a bit more imaginative with colours of these houses, some pastels maybe?

I wish they’d been a bit more imaginative with colours of these houses, some pastels maybe?

Loved this bicycle parking space which I think was part of the Spinelli apartment building.

Loved this bicycle parking space which I think was part of the Spinelli apartment building.

Plus points for the green roofs on the Urban Villas.

Plus points for the green roofs on the Urban Villas.

Not sure what the plane was doing there. The PuuMera wooden apartment building is on the left.

Not sure what the plane was doing there. The PuuMera wooden apartment building is on the left.

The fair area, which will become a real housing area when the fair ends, is very compact.

The fair area, which will become a real housing area when the fair ends, is very compact.

Living here will mean getting to know your neighbours...

Living here will mean getting to know your neighbours…

Most - probably all? - of the houses showcased had their own sauna. How very Finnish.

Most – probably all? – of the houses showcased had their own sauna. How very Finnish.

Didn't have time to inspect this further, but looks like an interesting waste management solution.

Didn’t have time to inspect this further, but looks like an interesting waste management solution.