Friday, 19 August 2011

The hidden front sides

This summer I became a rower. Two times a week we were practicing for the biglongboat rowing event in Sulkava. The training took place in the bays on the border between Helsinki and Espoo. Each training had a length of 10 to 15 km.
These routes opened for me a new perspective on Helsinki! Sitting in the longboat I got a view on parts of the city that are otherwise hidden behind walls or buildings or surrounded by well-trimmed hedgerows.

Along the shores of the small islands Kuusisaari (1) and Kaskisaari (2) big windows allow a glimpse into spacious living rooms and on a broad selection of design furniture, boats are tied to landing stages, the mowed lawn expects the residents of the house. It is probably in the interest of the owners that there is not much information and limited view from the landside on these houses. One of the few exceptions is a newhousing complex partly standing on pillars (3) in the sea in Lauttasaari designed by NRT architects.

Also the residence of theFinish President in Mäntyniemi (4), the last work of the couple Reima and Raili Pietilä, is visible from the seaside better than on land.

The restaurant Keilaranta (5), designed by Aarne Ervi in 1951, is hidden behind big office buildings, but open to the sea.
The rowingstadium (6), that was built for the Finish Olympic Games in 1952 and designed by Hilding Ekelund, opens its stand for the spectators naturally to the seaside. Unfortunately, it wasn't used for the Olympic rowing events, because the spot is to windy. Today the rows of seats are mostly empty, only the facilities inside the building are more frequently in use.

A sight of its own is Salmisaari (7). The court buildings are located there, originally planned by VäinöVähäkallio in 1936 as a factory and headquarter of the Finnish state alcohol monopoly (Alko). Its front to the sea is adorned with a relief by GunnarFinne. A little bit to the south stands Raimo Utianen's monument “Vooki” commissioned by Alko in 1974. A little bit to the north are the “too heavy visitors” (liian painavat vieraat), a rough stone sculpture by Maria Duncker set up in 2010.

All this seems to be the perfect opposite to the untidy backyards that you can spot only from a train rolling into the city. Iggy Pop rides “through the city's backside” and sees “the city's ripped insides” (The Passenger). I have to sit in a longboat and spot Helsinki's bright front sides.

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