PROUD – Urban Culture in Helsinki

Our regular Proud project meetings led us recently to Helsinki (World Design Capital). Helsinki is always a great place to be, but with the world Design Capital preparations and the large CUMULUS conference, it was especially vibrant. One of the activates laid on for us by the City Council (our Proud partner hosts) was a series of themed visits across the city. One of the highlights of this was a tour of activities looking at Urban Culture.

This included a visit to the Korjaamo Culture Factory one of the largest art centres in Europe. This in an interesting mix of art performance (music and theatre) with visual arts and commercial activity with numerous bars and cafes. The thing that stood out to us is the move they are undertaking away from housing companies in incubators towards a more dynamic and flexible approach. They are developing a model of engagement with companies where there are high quality, flexible spaces that are free to use in a public / semi-public setting. As a visitor / company if you want a more private space or some particular capabilities you can book one of the 4 custom environments. These will each have a very different feel, one will have a full kitchen, one will be in the mould of a living room while another will be highly augmented digitally.

One of the other highlights of the tour was the reformulation of the library as a centre for activity in Helsinki. The library in the UK are an important part of the community even if the internet is challenging traditional models of book lending. The library system here is responding by offering free working space on tables but also in the ‘isolation chair’ shown above, to allow private conversations or very quiet working in a vibrant environment. They also offer services such as the conversion of old media (floppy disk, VHS) into digital media and even basic IT support, all to help the Library stay relevant.