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Shared library of communities


Besides being a space, the Central Library should also be a tool, platform and publication channel for the activities of individuals and various collectives. “Vacant space just for you, your association, organisation, community or group. Come and fill up the space, animate it, make it your own, interact, spend time together.” Perhaps the Central Library could advertise the opportunity provided by the public urban space to residents, users, creators and participants in these words. The metropolitan area is bustling with active people whose arrival in great numbers at the Central Library is anticipated with great enthusiasm.

We asked for proposals from civic organisation and communities as to how they would like to utilise the facilities and opportunities provided by the Central Library.

Public space is also yours

Dodo ry is an environmental organisation focusing on global environmental problems and city planning, among other things. Saija Vuola presents a couple of projects that could very well be carried out in the facilities of the Central Library and its surroundings. “For example, our Customisation Workshop and Urban Farming projects have already served in diverse non-commercial campaigns. The Customisation Workshop will hopefully one day have a space where people can fix things, do crafts, sew, update and decorate things as well as learn from each other.”

The idea behind the Customisation Workshop is to share tools and facilities, which makes the project both ecological and communal. “In the Customisation Workshop, information is passed from one generation to the next, immigrants share the craftsmanship of their people with others and people holding a wrench for the first time learn how to fix their bike,” says Vuola. The idea is very suitable for the library facilities and the getting people to meet each other.

“Another very suitable project is the Urban Farming project that makes almost any space more beautiful and easier to grasp.” In Urban Farming, anyone can set up a vegetable patch anywhere they like. Vuola suggests that herbs cultivated in such way in the vicinity of the library could be used for preparing sandwiches in the library’s café. “People would feel like this public space also belonged to them. A green environment that you can influence increases well-being.”

Art pedagogic mission in providing experiences

Markus Kåhre is part of Checkpoint Helsinki, an active network of art professionals. Its purpose is to produce internationally significant modern art in Helsinki and create a functional co-operation model in the art structures of Helsinki. Kåhre is immediately excited about the possibilities offered by the library.

“Libraries offer the most interesting co-operation channels for Checkpoint. We live in times when art forms are increasingly being mixed with each other and enriching each other. In this respect, libraries are in the front line, for example in the audio-visual field. The Central Library would indeed be a great place for showcasing works of art that aim to interact with the public or require time and peace to fully appreciate them.” Kåhre emphasises that art would not be a mere visual decoration but that the library would have an art pedagogical mission to provide experiences. “The facilities of the library could be used to open up the works of art as comprehensive processes and not just as end results.”

Kåhre seeks to create art in deeds and general like to try new things. “I believe that Checkpoint and the Central Library will co-operate over the years by showcasing works of art, opening archives and implementing large-scale festival-like entities together with other institutions. I am certain that the co-operation will lead to things that cannot even be imagined yet – and that unexpectedness is key!”

Plot party?

It will be a while before the Central Library building is erected. How could we make the most of the plot before the completion of the building?

“The Customisation Workshop organises various workshops, such as bike repairing, and these workshops could very well be organised on the plot of land,” says Saija Vuola of Dodo ry. “The Urban Farming project could also be carried out in the form of urban farmers providing training, handing out seed bombs and planning patches. Communal activity spreads the seed.”

Markus Kåhre from Checkpoint sees the Central Library as a centre of culture. “The library, Kiasma and Helsinki Music Centre form a triangle that will hopefully form a true dynamic trio. During the warm seasons, there would be something happening outdoors all the time. These activities should be launched before the completion of the building. Animated cultural life requires places where the public and creator can easily come together and meet. It is essential to claim space for culture.”

That is true. Let’s design and build together a library that is not a gated space within the city or a “supermarket in the middle of nowhere”, but a refinery of ideas and thoughts that opens out in several directions and interacts with its environment, partners and residents.

A smiling house and a ‘yes space’, where everybody can find a perspective on life, whether they are working on an exhibition, amigurumi, urban vegetable patch, publication, demo or job application.

The Shared Library of Communities series of articles will continue at in 2013.

Text: Siru Valleala and Virve Miettinen
Photos: Simo Karisalo/Helsinki Festival, Kimmo Kivelä/Dodo ry, Checkpoint Helsinki

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