) is the closest Helsinki
comes to places like London
's Canary Wharf
. Like those two, Ruoholahti used to be
a seaside island of derelict warehouses, which has been completely
revamped in less than ten years.
The island was originally built in the 1910s --
and yes, I do mean "built", much of it is reclaimed land between and
around the islands of Hietasaari and Jätkäsaari -- to
house Länsisatama, the "West Harbour" that has been Helsinki's main
cargo port ever since. A then obscure rubber company named Nokia
built a large cable factory in the 1940s, and the state alcohol
monopoly Alko also moved its headquarters nearby.
And that was about it as far as other companies went, but the port
continued to grow. Upgraded in 1977 to handle container
traffic, it became a passenger port as well when the ferries to Tallinn
also moved to West Harbour in 1995.
However, since all cargo traffic in Helsinki will soon be moved to
the new port at Vuosaari, the city of Helsinki will soon have
several square kilometers of central seafront property on its hands,
and Ruoholahti is the first phase in the rebuilding operation.
The area turned into a giant construction site in 1991. A year later
the first inhabitants moved in, and in 1993 the Helsinki Metro
grew from Kamppi to Ruoholahti, its current terminus (although that
will change once the extension to Espoo is finished). Nokia's
cable factory (Kaapelitehdas) was turned into a gigantic cultural
center that, unlike most of such beasts, actually serves Helsinki's
inhabitants: it is now home to a large number of museums, art galleries,
workshops, restaurants and even hosts raves every now and then.
Residential construction was complete in 1998, but the construction
of offices only really started to get under way at this time:
Ruoholahti now hosts the massive Helsinki High Tech Center (HTC),
home to my employer First Hop among many others.
About the only
loser in the game was Lepakkoluola ("Bat Cave"), an abandoned
warehouse taken over by radicals in the sixties and turned into a
radio station and venue for all kinds of music from punk
to techno via industrial. Nokia, by now a telecom giant,
bought the lot, put up a bunch of big blue cubes, and then decided it
didn't want them after all. At time of writing they
The core of Ruoholahti is more or less complete, now
that even Alko's former bottling plant has
completed its transformation into a shopping center.
However, once the underground coal storage facilities
of the nearby Salmisaari power plant are complete (est. 2004),
another city block's worth of buildings will be added. In 2008 or so,
the Vuosaari port should be operational, and the construction of
the adjoining areas of Saukonpaasi and Jätkänsaari will start.
References (in English!)