Organically evolving living spaces

The maritime atmosphere of Helsinki can be experienced with all the senses this summer, when Allas, a new city-centre lido, opens its doors in June. This is partially thanks to local residents, as Allas has more than 300 crowdfunding investors.  The project is a brainchild of Raoul Grünstein.

“Crowdfunding has been important for two reasons: It has brought in new investors, but also promoted the ideology of co-development, building a better city together”, Raoul explains.

Raoul is one of the pioneers of Helsinki’s urban culture, and his life’s work can be admired not just in Allas but also in the Image magazine and the Korjaamo Culture Factory.

“I come from a family of entrepreneurs, and I have always approached my work from the premise that I want to combine entrepreneurship with worthwhile causes. I am interested in everything that gives people a sense of meaning and a feeling of togetherness.”

When it comes to urban planning, Raoul’s preference is for experiential cities with visual appeal. “I do not like living spaces that are too perfectly planned out. To me, they feel artificial and lack the human perspective.”

Raoul believes that planning a cityscape from the top down is not necessarily conducive to incorporating the human aspect: “I am referring to large-scale development projects where every minute detail is planned out in advance. These kinds of projects risk losing the richness that comes from the combination of layers of new and old. I prefer an organic approach of adding something new, every year, little by little.”


The DIY spirit

The role of urban culture as a source of a city’s appeal and vitality cannot be denied. “A city’s appeal is not made of individual elements, but of what goes on there.”

The city organisation should be a stronger partner in making Helsinki more lively and exciting. “We talk about Helsinki’s shoreline as a national landscape, but really half of it is obscured by warehouses and the other half is car parks. If we really see the sea as a valuable asset, we should treat it as such”, Raoul says.

Raoul is pleased to have seen Helsinki come to life in the last decade and local residents to have adopted a more proactive attitude.

What advice would Raoul give to makers of the future?

“It is great that there are more and more active people around. However, projects require a lot of patience, as it can take years just to get past the planning stage, to secure funding, and to get the necessary permits. The situation has improved, but most projects still take at least five years to push through. Working towards the goals you believe in calls for perseverance and, or course, financial resources.”


Text and picture: Tia Hallanoro


Raoul Grünstein chose Alexander Weinstein as the maker of the Helsinki of the future.