Alatalo, Aino: Scales of Art – new cultural buildings re-arranging the relations of a city. The case of Helsinki.

An idea of a new cultural building typically sparks a lively debate regarding its location. Should the new cultural venue reside in the city centre or perhaps in the outskirts of the city? This paper examines the relationship of place and art through a comparative study of three recent cultural construction project in the Helsinki city centre. The paper traces the process between the different project stakeholders – project participants, city lead, politicians and urban planners – to determine the suitable location for the new buildings. This work is approached through the concept of scaling: to what kind of entities the actors try to attach the building in order to make the argument for the desired location. 

The recent developments in urban planning at the very heart of the city make Helsinki an interesting laboratory to examine these developments: in the early 2000s, the zoning of an almost un-built site of Töölönlahti bay area opened up a possibility to rethink the city centre.  Since cultural buildings are often understood belonging to especially prestige sites, they potentially have a significant role to play in how our urban life together takes shape. Empirically the paper focuses on Helsinki Music Centre (2011), Helsinki Central Library Oodi (2018) and Amos Rex Art Museum (2018). The data consists of project participant interviews, media articles, web page material and project documents.