To continue the story about Helsinki that I started a
long time ago, we will have a couple of albums devoted to buildings from
the mid-late 20th century.
The comments are written about half and half by Mikhail Pyarnyanen and
myself. I haven't specified who wrote what. It not very important, and not
difficult to tell by the style, also considering that Mikhail lives in
We start with 2-3 houses built in the
first half of the 20th century. In this building, among other things,
lies the Finnish job exchange. I went there (as company, and not for the
reasons you thought :) out of curiosity. I didn't take photos inside,
but I can say that the behaviour of people and civil servants in this
strictly state institution differs strongly from how it is in our
country. For example, there is a queue (around 7-8 people) leading to a
window in which sits a bureaucrat. And the rest of the queue naturally
keeps a distance of about 1.5-2 metres to the person who is at present
talking with the bureaucrat. As in: it is not polite to listen to the
discussion going on there.
Yes, and of course everything is spotless,
and computer-based. A machine gives out talons with a queue number, and
the number being served is visible on a display (by the way, this is
used with us as well already, but it is rare, and doesn't always work).
A building from the same period on
Hдmentie Street (metro station Sцrnдinen). Apparently, from the 1930s,
in a constructivist style.
There are buildings like this in Petersburg as well, for example, on
The same street.
I think this building as well is from the first half of the 20th
century. The pipe in the background is from the automatic ventilation
system. It goes on several times a day, at set times.
An even temperature is maintained by another system, which monitors the
temperature in every room. (From the boiler room in the basement of
every house, hot water can at any moment rise to the radiators' copper
pipes. In the flats, each radiator has an ingenuous tap made from
bi-metal plate. When it becomes chilly, they open, and the standard
temperature (21 degrees or a little more) is maintained.) Therefore, you
hardly ever hear the rumble of the ventilation system, and there aren't
any draughts, and it's not cold... The Finns simply cannot imagine
things like planned disconnection of hot water to clean or desalinate
the pipes in whole regions of a city. ;-)
All the three mentioned buildings are situated in the central part of
Now we take a look on the outskirts.
This is a newly built house in the Puotila region, by the bridge over
the Vartiokylya strait.
It's on Meripollontie Street. Two steps away from this house, the metro
line comes up into the open, and goes on to the bridge...
The metro bridge and a metro train on it.
In Finland, there is a practical ticket system on public transport
(it seems this is widespread in Europe). There is a paper ticket that
one buys for a set period of time, during which one may travel on any
type of transport (the time of purchase plus one hour is printed on the
One has to show the ticket to the driver on entry.
If one has a period ticket, you don't have to show it to anyone (they
introduced a new standard a year ago). You just bring it to a special
device at any type of transport, and push a button, and afterwards you
may ride for an hour (the corresponding amount of money is deducted from
the balance). A controller can check the card or the ticket and give a
To check the period ticket is easy, you just take it to the device, and
if the lamp lights green, you can still travel on it. In the metro,
there are machines where you may check the card balance, the time left
of this journey, etc. It even issues a receipt.
One may also buy tickets from a mobile telephone, through sending an SMS
to a special number. The cost of a ticket is deducted from the account,
and to the controllers one shows the SMS receipt, in which the journey
time is stated.
There are metro stations below and above
ground (like this one, Rastila).
Above the platform, there are
displays, where one can see the time left to the next train, the length
of the train (1, 2 or 3 carriages), and the final station.
Instead of the announcement "take care of the closing doors", there
is a short sound signal.
At this station, there is a strange
design, including a succession of rusty and shining (stainless steel)
plates. I was told that this is how the design was supposed to be :)
Some new houses are also decorated partly with rusty plates. It looks
good from a distance, but not from close up... :)
A station below ground (Syernaynen).
Unlike on our metro, the stations look like each other here.
They are all a short distance below ground, the escalators are like
the ones we have in-between different levels. It's interesting that if
nobody comes to the escalator for a while, it stops and waits.
In parallel with the escalators, there are sloping lifts for the
In the carriage.
Among the interesting
1. In the winter, the doors don't open on the stations above ground,
unless one pushes a special button (to avoid letting in the cold air).
2. There isn't very much noise inside the carriages, so one can speak
in a normal voice.
And in public transport, people with a child in a pram go for free.
This is regularly taken advantage of: the child will run around while
waiting for the bus, and when he has to, he jumps into the pram :)
Note the plant beds behind the metro
bridge. These city gardens are allotted to Finns who love digging the
soil. Because there are far fewer such Finns than Russians, the scale of
the phenomenon is more modest :)
Of course, they don't grow potatoes,
but flowers and the odd apple tree.
This road is for cyclists and
Everything is provided for bikes: there are many cycling roads, and
drivers have to give way on ordinary roads.
All the roads are lighted during the dark hours, in spite of the
extremely few cyclists and pedestrians in the sparsely populated
This brings into mind the budget conscious Europeans. Compare this to
what they tell us on television :)
The market on Hakaniementori Square.
This market, like the one on
Kauppatori in front of the presidential palace, is open until around 2
pm. Afterwards, all the stalls are swiftly turned, and the electricity
lines and extensions are turned off, a watering vehicle comes by, and
you see an ordinary square, with shining wet stones. You wouldn't guess
that only half an hour earlier, people were trading things here.
A power station with interesting
As correctly remarked, it looks like SimCity :)
This part of the Syornayinen region is being rebuilt according to the
Helsinki city plans. This used to be an industrial zone, and the cargo
port lies nearby. But the residential areas came closer, and the port is
nearly in the centre of Helsinki, an extraordinarily coveted piece of
land for investors. To be short, the decision to move the cargo port to
a new place, from the centre to the outskirts, with new roads and
required infrastructure, was made a short while ago. And where there now
is a power station, high-standard residential buildings are under
By the way, the plans for moving the industrial zone have already been
followed. Just a few steps away from this place, on the other side of
the road, an enormous hoist has been taken down very accurately and
completely, and a nice group of high-rise buildings has been built in
its place during a few months.
Office blocks in the same area.
A remark about the building density in the centre, and small open
spaces, parking places and the like:
Understandably, building density is strongly dependent on the presence
of private ownership on land.
In earlier times (the first half of the 20th century, buildings were
built very close to each other, and accordingly, in the centre of the
city, there are few open spaces (although they try to add small squares
when they can). This situation resembles the one in the historical
centre of Petersburg.
However, now, although the land is privately owned, it has all been
bought and belongs to very large companies, which within their large
pieces of land can plan areas with more open space for parks and the
like. That is how I understood the situation.
This photo illustrates the similarity of
some part of Helsinki to our own buildings in the Soviet period.
the white wall with butterflies on it. This is all that remains of the
hoist mentioned above: a foundation, a tunnel through it with entrance
from the right. Now one does not even think that there was anything else
here very recently. The houses are around a year old. This is the same
region, Syornaynen rantatie street.
These houses are relatively newly built
(the Itдkeskus area, Ilotulitustie street).
As you may see, there is much space for green areas and children's
These are relatively inexpensive houses with many
flats. That is, there are even more expensive houses with many flats,
and there are houses for a few families, that are normally even more
expensive. A house for one family only is the most expensive and least
widespread kind of house (in the city, of course).
The Finns themselves divide their different kinds of
houses into the following categories:
moniasuntoinen talo - an "ordinary" house with many
rivitalo - "a row of houses" (terraced houses), and you and the
neighbours share the outer walls, (they can be only one floor high, or
2-3 floors, which depends on the cost);
paritalo - a semi-detached house for two families;
omakotitalo - one's own, private house.
To the left, you may see
the bicycle stand. The bicycles are often locked to this stand with a
lock or a chain. Bicycles are stolen, but the scale of theft is
incomparable to ours.
The same Ilotulitustie street (in
Russian, Salute street).
What you may see here:
1. Children's toys are scattered around the playground, and nobody
2. There are "balconies" on the ground floor where the glass doors open
onto the ground, and the fence is rather conditional, mostly consisting
only of bushes or shrubbery that shield the space from people's view.
3. The balconies are not used for drying laundry, and not as a scrap
The local "House Committee" ardently supervises the last thing. For
example, one may not install a satellite TV disc outside the bounds of
one's own balcony without its permission. The probability for the
committee prohibiting this is nearly 100 per cent. They are very anxious
about anything that can destroy the general architecture of the
building. This is rather serious, because if one does not heed their
opinion, one can be evicted.
Again, compare this to how we generally see the Europeans.
Not even to speak of how clean and tidy
The "House Committee" office takes care of this as
well. Finnish caretakers have an advantage in that nearly everything is
well mechanized. It starts with the regular mowing of the lawns in the
courtyard, when the House Committee worker goes around on a small kind
of tractor, and ends with the removal of snow and ice in the winter,
when in the quiet night-time enormous machines go round on streets and
in yards, like mining engines..
By the way, the Finns don't put sand on their streets when they are icy.
They use small shingles, a few millimetres in diameter. They acquire it
from sifting stones through special sifts, when they need to crush rock.
These shingles don't turn into mud, and make the step steadier...
But this is not all. In spring, when everything starts to melt, special
machines, cleaners, appear in the streets. They remove all the shingles
that accumulated over the winter, and take them to a treatment plant
where they are cleaned, sifted, and put into use the next winter again!
This is technology practically without waste.
If one enters a house (from the previous
photograph), one comes into a corridor like this one, and the flats have
separate entrances from it. Every door has a sign with the family name
of the owner on it. The key to any flat is also the key to the lock on
the main entrance.
These main entrances are unlocked during the day, ad in the evening
they lock automatically, at a set time, for example, 9 pm. After this,
only a person who lives in the house may enter, or anyone that he lets
Some doors have a sign with "No advertising in the mailbox, please". And
they don't receive it :)
The corridor floor is cleaned by municipal servants.
In many houses, these corridors are glassed in.
At night, the stairwells have illuminated switches. When a person
enters, he pushes it and the light turns on. After he has entered his
own flat, the light goes off after a certain period, set by a timer.
There are switches in all corridors, nearly by every flat, which is very
practical and restricts the use of electricity.
Children are playing in the tent.
Naturally, there are no broken glass, rubbish or dog's droppings on
the lawn. If one walks four-legged friends (outside of special dogs'
grounds) or leaves a dog's droppings on the pavement, one may receive a
hefty fine. But dog owners are a conscious lot, and follow their
offspring. They don't let them sit down where it isn't allowed, and if
they have to, they take a special bag brought from home from their
pockets, and ... collect the dropping from the pavement. To throw it
where it is allowed :)
An alternative type of living: houses
with 1-2 floors for a few families. A typical well-to-do rivitalo, that
is, a row of terraced houses. This is the back yard.
The fences divide the space into sections for each family. The small
sheds at the other end of these sections are used to store bicycles and
НThe start of Ilotulitustie street. The
flats have various numbers of rooms and levels. You have already seen
the yard of this house, it was the one with toys that were lying about.
You may have a look at a very interesting document: a Finnish
instruction to immigrants (in Russian). Please note how accurately many
things are noticed :)