Helsinki celebrates 200 years as Finnish capital
Presence of St. Petersburg mayor prompts gay rights protest at Finlandia Hall
The proposed Guggenheim museum is such a topical issue that the subject comes up on nearly every occasion.
Speaking at Finlandia Hall at the official reception marking the bicentenary of Helsinki’s status as the Finnish capital, Professor Emeritus Matti Klinge took up the controversy.
In his address, Klinge lashed out at what he sees as architectural mistakes and eyesores in the Finnish capital.
Klinge sees as big blunders the Hotel Palace - a “lump house” on the west side of the South Harbour - and the “awful marble sugar cube”, architect Alvar Aalto's Enso-Gutzeit headquarters building on Katajanokka, a work not seen as being Aalto's finest hour.
“So hands off Katajanokka - there are other good and distinguished places. Katajanokka needs more trees”, Klinge said to the applause of hundreds of people.
Klinge has said before that the Guggenheim museum building, which has been planned for Katajanokka, would spoil the Helsinki landscape.
Former President Martti Ahtisaari, meanwhile, came out in favour of the museum project.
“The availability of culture is excellent in Helsinki. I believe that it will continue to improve, and hopefully we can get the Guggenheim museum here some day. It would expand the availability and give Finnish artists improved access to the United States market."
He downplayed the comments of his family friend Matti Klinge as a deliberate provocation.
Also celebrating Helsinki was President Sauli Niinistö, who spoke about the importance of Helsinki for all of Finland.
He also sought to ease tensions between Helsinki and the rest of the country.
“Every new company and every new job benefit the entire country, regardless of whether or not they are located in Helsinki or in Utsjoki [in the far northernmost corner of Lapland]”, Niinistö said.
There was a certain amount of international flavour at the gathering, with Sten Nordin, the Mayor of Stockholm, and Georgy Poltavchenko, the Mayor of St. Petersburg both bringing their greetings to Helsinki.
Poltavchenko’s presence prompted a small demonstration outside the venue, organised by the Finnish section of Amnesty International and the gay rights organisation SETA, who called on Finnish decision-makers to send a clear message to Russia to protect the human rights of sexual minorities.
St. Petersburg recently signed a law making it a crime in the St. Petersburg area to inform people under the age of 18 about homosexuality.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Artillery salute to mark Helsinki 200 years as capital (12.4.2012)
Helsinki celebrates two centuries as Finnish capital (4.4.2012)