Helsinki Power Plant May Be Transformed Into Arts and Culture Center

The Finnish capital plans to decommission the Hanasaari power plant by 2024. Could it be the next Tate Modern?

Hanasaari B
The Hanasaari B power plant was commissioned in 1974 as a coal-fired power plant. Photo by Matti Mattila via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY 2.0

A proposal to convert a power plant in Helsinki, Finland, into a hub of art, culture and technology has drawn comparisons to London’s Tate Modern, Gareth Harris reports for the Art Newspaper.

The suggestion is one of nearly 30 included in a report authored by arts and culture experts working on behalf of the city. The group was established in the spring of 2019 to give the capital direction on how it can incorporate art in its next ten years of development, according to a statement. The city plans to decommission the Hanasaari power plant in 2024 as Finland moves away from generating energy by burning fuel. Converting the plant into an arts center would give it a second life.

“Hanasaari power plant will be transformed into a centre for culture, technology and sustainable development,” the working group proposes in their report. “The centre, which will be implemented in co-operation between business life, educational institutions and cultural operators, will bring together living urban culture, artistic performance and museum activities, sustainable development and technological expertise and research.”

The plan to convert the Hanasaari B power plant into an arts hub is “the most striking and arguably far-reaching” suggestion in the report, Adam Oliver Smith writes for the Helsinki Times.

The Hanasaari B power plant was commissioned in 1974 as a coal-fired power plant. It was part of a pair of power plants, but the other (Hanasaari A) was decommissioned in 2000 and dismantled in 2007. In 2015, Hanasaari B started burning wood pellets as the country moves toward cleaner energy. With the plant’s impending closure, Helsinki has considered replacing it with residential buildings, but faces obstacles like contamination in the soil from power plant operations.

If the city decides to move forward with the plan to convert the industrial building into an art complex, it will be in good company. The Tate Modern in London occupies the former Bankside Power Station. The city announced its decision to convert the mid-20th century industrial building into a modern art gallery in 1994, unveiled its plans in 1996, and opened in 2000.

Toronto’s Museum of Contemporary Art is located in a former aluminum factory. In 2017, the same architectural firm that developed the Tate Modern announced plans to convert an abandoned power station in Brooklyn, New York, into an arts complex, although the site faces a lengthy cleanup process.

The Helsinki 2030 report outlines efforts beyond the proposal to convert the Hanasaari B power plant into an arts and culture hub. It also examines how the city can support art in its communities over the next ten years. The working group suggests creating open spaces in the city for meetings and activities, developing a simple process for using empty city facilities for work and performances, and establishing an architecture and design museum. The report emphasizes that the city should keep environmental sustainability at the forefront of new projects.

The report also suggests moving the Helsinki Art Museum from its current location in the 1930s Tennispalatsi building to a building closer to the Hanasaari B power plant.

“Arts and culture play a key role in building the city’s vitality and competitiveness, but it is even more important to identify the sectors’ impact on the residents’ well-being and establishing a sense of community. The city cannot achieve this alone,” says Mayor Jan Vapaavuori in a statement. “I am hoping for active and extensive discussion regarding how the vision should be deployed and how it can promote co-operation among all of the City’s operators.”

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