For better living

The recently appointed Chair of the HOAS (Foundation for Student Housing in the Helsinki Region) Board of Directors is full of energy and improvement ideas. After a long career on the board, Leena Pihlajamäki felt that assuming the role of the Chair was the natural next step. Over the years, I have become familiar with the organisation, and there is a great can-do atmosphere at HOAS. We have a good group of people constantly playing around with new improvement ideas. Already, the one-day property face-lifts have brought a lot of joy to students, and we will see plenty of new experiments in the next few years.


Many faces of Helsinki

“I moved to Helsinki some 12 years ago from Southern Ostrobothnia. Living in a small town, I was used to cycling everywhere in a matter of minutes, so moving to Malmi in Helsinki was not an entirely positive experience.”

From Malmi, Leena has moved to the vicinity of Viiskulma and fallen in love with Helsinki by the sea. Her current home is in Kallio. “I have seen the many faces of Helsinki, found my own Helsinki, and fallen in love with it.”

In addition to the vicinity of the sea, Leena loves the freshness and the atmosphere of the city. “Big cities have a unique spirit. I love being able to step outside and decide whether I want to go for a coffee, have brunch, or see an exhibition.”

For Leena, one of the assets of Helsinki is the experimental culture. “Helsinki is a cross-section of Finland, while being an international city. Helsinki brings together people from all walks of life, and the city consists of many villages and communities.”


”City is home”

Helsinki is also home to many students. “Students are visible on the city’s streets, and the university is an important community of intellectual nourishment. Students bring life to Helsinki and generate spontaneous energy.”

HOAS has an important role in building homes for students and developing the residential areas of the city. One issue particularly close to Leena’s heart is promoting the construction of student homes in new areas. In construction, time spans are long and new regional building, in particular, requires patience.

”We have seen positive development in the city’s construction policy and a trend to move away from the old ways. Today, it is possible to build student housing without car parks, with the focus shifting to cycling routes and public transport.”

Leena emphasises that one of Finland’s strengths are the small differences in social class and residential areas. This is why the increasing social divide should be a cause for concern.

“The City aims to bring variety to different residential areas. This has partly been successful and partly not. We can see considerable differences between residential areas, and the social divide in certain areas is increasing.”

Lively and diverse residential areas make people’s everyday lives richer. “The more variation there is in the people we know, the more we can understand our surroundings. Municipal decision making is key here, the challenge and the task is to manage and feed the change in the right proportion.”


A more beautiful city

In terms of new regional building, Leena points out the significance of pleasant environments. “What we see around us affects our well-being. Aesthetics is rarely mentioned these days. People have different views, of course, but there should be more discussion.”

Whether the new residents feel at home in an area, also affects the pleasantness of the environment. “The city is growing fast, and it is important to make the integration of new residents in the community as easy as possible.“

Leena’s energy and enthusiasm are tangible; she and HOAS are serious about making Helsinki a better, more pleasant home for its residents. “I want to work for a livelier, happier and more experimental Helsinki.”
Text: Laura Kylliäinen
Picture: Jari Hanska


Alviina Alametsä nominated Leena Pihlajamäki as a future maker of Helsinki.