What do you think is the best thing about Helsinki, Mayor Jan Vapaavuori?
— The people! They make this city an exciting combination of functionalism and quirky unpolished charm. There’s so much happening every day, and something new is always cooking. Some of the city’s special gems are our unique location by the sea, the varied districts, and the ever-evolving cultural scene.
What makes Helsinki a pioneering city?
— Helsinki is attractive, and it’s currently very trendy and increasingly popular internationally. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the amount of international interest for Helsinki.
— According to our strategy, Helsinki is headed towards being the world’s most functional city. This refers to many things, such as clean tap water, not being late for a meeting or a plane because of heavy traffic or unexpected congestion, and the fact that your child can safely walk alone to a nearby school, and that that school is one of the world’s best to boot.
— Helsinki’s size is another competitive advantage. We’re big enough for systemic pilot projects, but small enough to give such projects the chance of success.
What will Helsinki be like in 20 years?
—In the future, Helsinki will be more international than ever. Concrete examples of our drive for internationalisation include having children study foreign languages at school at a younger age, and expanding opportunities to learn Chinese, for example. We are creating more English-language daycare and school options, while also working hard to attract foreign investments and offer a wider range of international cultural experiences.
— Helsinki is growing rapidly, which means a lot of new development projects, as well as existing suburbs changing as the city expands. Nature is an important aspect of life in Helsinki and will continue to be so twenty years from now, too.
Helsinki right now: architecture, art and urban events
The new art museum Amos Rex cements Helsinki’s status as one of the best cities for art in Europe. The unique architecture of Amos Rex combines an underground exhibition space, the functionalist Lasipalatsi (“Glass Palace”) building from 1936, the cinema Bio Rex, and an event area out on the square.
December 2018 sees the opening of the Central Library Oodi (“Ode”), which redefines the concept of a library. Oodi is a shared space for all Helsinki residents on Citizen Square, at the very heart of Helsinki.
Two years ago Allas Sea Pool transformed the Market Square. Where else can you take a dip outside, in the middle of the city, on every single day of the year?
Regular urban pop-up events infuse Helsinki with contagious communal energy. These include the Finnish Your Dinner outdoor dining session, flea market event Cleaning Day and Restaurant Day, on which anyone can open a restaurant for a day.
Photos: Eetu Ahanen, (c) Allas Sea Pool ja Jetro Stavén / Helsinki City