Finland’s iconic and best-looking building masterpiece is the main railway station in the centre of Helsinki.
The station building was designed by Eliel Saarinen and inaugurated in 1919. Helsinki Central was chosen as one of the world’s most beautiful railway stations by BBC in 2013 – they wrote then:
“Built from 1857 during the time of the Russian Grand Duchy, Finnish railways were effectively state-owned from their inception. Stations were simple, functional and standardised. And then, half a century later, when the National Romantic movement in the arts caught on, characterised by the stirring music of Jean Sibelius, and a desire for independence from Russia was in the air, Finnish architects let rip with a wave of ambitious and beautifully crafted buildings; on the crest of this wave was Helsinki station.
A fairy tale design, singing of Finland, its stirring granite facades are dominated by stern faced giants bearing huge lanterns in their outsized hands. Once past these guardians, passengers pass into grand vaulted halls. Spotless, delightful, purposeful and comfortable, these add immeasurably to the lustre and magic of this happily idiosyncratic, yet perfectly functional building. Beyond these halls, trains that run religiously to time will take you to the Arctic Circle, east to Russia or west to the enchanting Finnish archipelago jutting into the Baltic Sea. The architect of Helsinki Station, completed in 1914, was Eliel Saarinen, an Arts and Crafts master, who later emigrated to the United States. “
A few years ago VR, the state railway company decided to move their offices from the station and “develop this historic building”.
They certainly did and the result is such a mess and such a disaster that not even ordinary Finns talk about it any more because it is a place to pass through as quickly as possible or avoid.
The whole area around and under the station has become a magnate for the following:
- Drug dealers and drunks
- Homeless folk trying to keep warm
- Romanians seeking warmth from begging outside Stockmann
- Young folk with nothing better to do
- Police and other security folk trying to keep the peace
- Cheap shops selling “€1 trifles” with plenty of empty shop sites
- Pawn shop for when your money runs out
- Broken doors and untidy corridors
- Fast food cafes by the dozen
- And vast numbers of commuters – this last group being the only honest users (apart form the police)…
This historic building used to house a fine restaurant and a grand ticket office. It used to be an exciting place to start a grand trip to Joensuu, Rovaniemi, Saint Petersburg and Moscow, but now it has been turned in to an untidy hamburger fast food joint for Helsinki’s underground life mixed with the 100 000 commuters who use it every day to get to work.
The last grand ticket hall has been replaced with a tiny glass aquarium like room in a side corridor where there are just two or three desks serving a long queue of impatient passengers. The grand ticket hall may be a MacDonalds fine dining hall with beautiful greasy floors and tables decorated with half eaten bags of cold French fries… The building that could have been the new Helsinki Museum of Modern Art has become the Helsinki Museum of Modern Fart.
With the breakdown of moral values in the UK with Brexit, the BBC will probably now describe this as a Triumpian success of commercial development.
Photo: Wikipedia Commons