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24/9/2023 Meri-Rastila

Helsinki, Finland

YEARNING FOR ROOTS

When Anna-Maija moved to Meri-Rastila in East Helsinki, her initial impression was reminiscent of Florence, akin to the rooflines with their exposed rafter trails. "I chose a street-facing apartment because I enjoy watching the passers-by from my window," she explains, expressing her fondness for the area.

 

In her new neighborhood, she also discovered an old log house nestled under equally ancient pine trees, which quickly became her primary point of interest. This wooden dwelling, known as the Sjökulla croft, is a historical relic that shares captivating stories of a 19th-century fishing family's life during Helsinki's early development.

 

In the early 2000s, after years of neglect by the city, the log house became the central focus of a determined campaign by local residents to rescue it. They embarked on a two-summer-long operation, dedicated to the extensive renovation of the building.

Sjökulla embodies a profound desire for connection to a place in the midst of a rapidly transforming city.

 

Ownership of the property was eventually transferred to the local residents' association, Vuosaari-Seura, which Anna-Maija soon joined. Today, the association utilizes the building for their meetings, events, and rentals.

 

Sjökulla embodies a profound desire for connection to a place in the midst of a rapidly transforming city.

 

As a significant portion of the more recent layer of buildings from the 1990s in Meri-Rastila soon faces demolition, it becomes clear that the removal of structures that are barely thirty years old disrupts the recently established identities within the neighborhood.

"Joining a local residents' group not only introduces you to new people but also helps you establish roots in a new area," Anna-Maija explains.

 

For years, Meri-Rastila's residents hoped to change the city's large-scale renewal plans. Despite the city’s participatory efforts, the locals feel unheard. Anna-Maija emphasizes the need for more genuine dialogue, stating, "It feels like our opinions don’t have much impact.”

 

The central message from the local residents is that they don't oppose changes in their neighborhood. Instead, they aspire through positive means to have a more active role in the urban planning process that significantly impacts their lives.

 

Anna-Maija highlights the advantages of engaging in local activism, saying, "Joining a local residents' group not only introduces you to new people but also helps you establish roots in a new area."

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