Helsinki: Socio-spatial Discrimination in a Nordic Welfare Metropolis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Public space is accessible to everyone, as public is the opposite of private. However, there are conditions that render some public spaces as more accessible to certain people or groups of people. That is to say that certain public spaces attract or facilitate certain public(s). Design is one among many parameters that influence the conditions that decide the value of public spaces as places where people of different backgrounds can encounter one another. The relation between encounter and exchange between different groups of people should not be considered as self-evident or even desired by people. I am interested in the social aspects of public spaces as lived spaces and I ask, how administrative and design strategies influence the life in these spaces? If public space could be considered as the common ground where functional and ritual activities, giving a sense of community take place, how the administrative and design strategies resist and/or allow certain groups of stake holders to participate? If participating entails negotiating our expression of identity and background, how then this negotiation proceeds? These are some of the questions all related tightly and all related to the socio-spatial experience of public spaces Helsinki in the north of Europe is the ground for research and analysis of a Nordic urban culture and welfare state policies, which for their part shape the physical characteristics of public space. This case provides a narrative of public space design and management. The aim is to promote a discourse for future sustainable public space design considering dynamic cultural diversities in our cities. A guiding interest is the practical input of sociological discourse over cities into design. The integration of design and social perspectives will greatly benefit the making of our urban environments. Of urban theorists Henri Lefebvre and Richard Sennett are very influential for appreciating the trivial, non-scientific and “small” that surrounds us in our everyday encounters with the stranger, the other in the city. “Other” here refers to the heterogeneous groups of transnationals, in pursuit of a life in a foreign country, who live between two cultures, make decisions, plan life strategies and are active agents of change. Special reference is to the Somali refugees in Helsinki. This paper is part of my doctoral studies in Finland and is a result of my work as a fellow at the Research and Training Network UrbEUROPE, in 2003.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberDC04-0083-2004
Pages (from-to)743-753
JournalThe International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations
Volume4
Publication statusPublished - 2004
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Design and management
  • Nordic Welfare
  • Public
  • Racism
  • Segregation
  • Social exclusion
  • Socio-spatial discrimination
  • Urban fears
  • Urban public space

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