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tashy endres
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Pressure group

Makasiinit Helsinki

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The protest movement was split into several groupings with slightly different aims and focuses. The common nominator was that they all wanted to make the citizens voice heard in the planning of one of the core areas in Helsinki. The common aims that could be identified among the different groupings were:
·    To preserve the over 100 years old Makasiinit building hosting temporary uses since 1987
·    To affect the political decision of the Töölönlahti detailed land use plan where the Makasiinit building was to be replaced by a new music hall
·    To suggest alternative visions for the reuse of Makasiinit and the whole Töölönlahti area

Young citizen activists and professionals (urban researchers, architects)

No formal common organization, several independent groupings and associations

20-30 key persons, citizens involved 41 000

1998 -

No personnel costs, but lot of volunteers’ time and energy
Some printing and material costs for the poster and photo exhibition; support from sponsors

It became evident in the end of 1990’s that the Helsinki City Planning Department will follow the land use guidelines set in the local master plan (1991) when making the detailed land use plan for the Makasiinit site. This would mean replacement of Makasiinit with a new music hall and a heavy commercial exploitation of the popular green area close to it. A small group of young professionals and citizens’ activist started to protest against the proposed demolition of the Makasiinit building. The first activities were opinion writings in the newspapers. The popularity of Makasiinit was further increased when the environment of southern Töölönlahti Bay, including Makasiinit site, was improved as part of Helsinki being a European City of Culture in 2000. The vague protest grew to a major citizens’ protest in the end of year 2000 when the first demonstration (Human Wall) was organized.

The protest movement consisted of several clicks. The most active group of young professionals (urban researchers, architects) and activists close to Oranssi ry (a youth organization founded in 1980’s in connection of housing occupancies) consisted of appr. 20-30 persons. They were focused in defending the Makasiinit building. Also some green politicians spoke for preservation of the Makasiinit. Other active actors were eminent architects (proposing alternative land-use visions for the whole Töölönlahti area) and nearby residents associations (Helsinki-seura, Töölö-seura) and other associations (Kaupunkisuunnitteluseura, the Finnish Association of Architects / Helsinki sub-division). These groupings were mainly concerned of loosing the open townscape in front of the House of the parliament and the bad environmental quality of the proposed heavy commercial exploitation of the Töölönlahti area.

So far (October 2002) the activities have been:
·    Media publicity in newspapers, radio and TV (1998->)
·    Demonstration “Human Wall” with 7000-8000 people forming a chain around the building, in 2000
·    Adaptive reuse scheme of the Makasiinit in 2000 by a group of young architects (Livady oy)
·    Poster “Makasiini-manifesti”, in 2001
·    Large number of debates and seminars (different associations as organizers, mainly in 2001-2002)
·    Alternative land use plan proposals by eminent architects (2001-2002)
·    Numerous contacts to local politicians (e-mails, SMS, phone calls, information material), especially in the end of 2001 and early 2002
·    Protest list with 41 000 names, delivered to City Board in February 2002
·    Demonstration outside the meeting place of the City Board when the crucial decision was made, 27th of February 2002
·    Video and photo & slide show of the events during the past years, April-May 2002

Since the protest movement was split into several small groups, the internal interaction happened among these little clicks (young citizens activists, urban researchers, Oranssi ry, eminent architects, nearby residents associations etc.). There was no formal “protest office” or “protest general”. Some of the activities managed to gather people from all groupings, like the demonstration Human Wall. It is quite remarkable to notice that majority of the tenants were not involved to the citizens’ protest. They said not wanting to end up to a conflict with the estate owner. Their tactics is to be able to continue “quietly” their activities as long as possible in the building. One of the tenants formulated it in Autumn 2001: “We will take out as much as possible before we have to leave the place”. This could be understood through the fact that even the adaptive reuse scheme by Livady Oy did not involve all of the temporary activities in the building as potential activities after the proposed repairs.

The external interaction of the protest movement has been impressive: numerous contacts with the local politicians, media representatives, municipal planners, state authorities and public have been taken. The City council decided despite this wide spread protest to accept the detailed land use plan for Töölönlahti area in the end of February 2002. This will mean replacement of Makasiinit and commercial exploitation of the green areas in within 3-5 years time. Why did the protest movement not succeed? On of the main reasons might have been that the citizens protest movement was split into several groupings. Also the two main groupings had slightly different aims: eminent architects were focusing on the alternative land-use of Töölönlahti and suggesting as part of it the preservation of Makasiinit structure and a new use of it for “higher” purposes like part of the city library etc., and the young professionals & citizens activists were focusing on the Makasiinit and suggesting low-price repairs and an adaptive reuse of Maksiinit for various temporary urban events. These two did not join their efforts until the very last moment. The protest started also relatively late in comparison of the length of the planning process, and the “soft” argumentation could not match the economic calculations the authorities presented. The outcome of the process illustrates also well the market oriented planning paradigm in Helsinki where the economic profitability has been set into the focus in the cost of cultural or spatial diversity & revitalization.

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