Pasila is the next railway station from Helsinki city centre, regardless of where you’re traveling to. With city officials’ offices and union head quarters it’s the bureaucratic centre of Helsinki. Pasila is an architectural experiment of the 1970’s: it’s built into two layers. The bottom layer is for cars and public transportation, and the top layer is dedicated for pedestrian and for people living and working in Pasila.
Pasila is kind of ugly, but in a beautiful way. The buildings represent concrete brutalism. There are a lot of staircases (due to the two-layers architecture), and therefore there is a lot of wall space owned by the city. Vast areas of publicly owned concrete wall makes Pasila an ideal place for street art.
During the past year or so, Helsinki Urban Art has facilitated the creation of many new pieces of street art in Pasila. They’ve applied for the permissions, done all the paper work, contacted the artists around the world, curated the applications from the artists, pointed out the places to paint, brainstormed with the artists and helped with acquiring stash, getting the lifts and equipment and all the practicalities. And dealt with police officers interrupting the painting work at the spot, showing the permissions and explaining the situation in local language.
The variety of the art and artists is quite remarkable: there are big and small pieces, paintings and ceramics, stencil and free hand. Even pieces utilising augmented reality! Artists from South Africa, Argentina, Italy, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Estonia, etc. Gender balance of the artists is about 50-50, which I appreciate. In fact, the word has started to go around out there, and nowadays there are artists with name who contact the folks of Helsinki Urban Art and ask if they could come and paint something.
I’m super happy that after the years of zero-tolerance for any paintings on walls, Helsinki has started to flourish as a platform of cool, beautiful and publicly available art.
Helsinki Urban Art maintains a map of Pasila street art district, which is pretty cool – in most cities you just pop into the cool pieces by accident or you just need to know them. They also organise guided street art tours in Pasila in English. A warm recommendation!