OURCourses is a cross university programme where each department will draft up its own programme which will be integrated into the 2011-2012 year syllabus and will have a strong focus on the issues highlighted by the OURcity programme. The information gathered by the other OURCity projects will be used as a source of raw data and there will be events held throughout the year that allow the students to display their findings to the public in a clear and simple format.

The different departments will aim to integration their courses as much as possible and to establish an understanding of the different working practices of those involved so that the students can benefit from a broader perspective of the issues raised by the OURCity programme.

 3 Universities/ 3 courses

Helsinki University – Geography Department

OurCity – A Workshop on Public Space, (For Master students)

1st Semester (05.11.2011 – 31.11.2011)


Dr. Michail Galanakis
michail.galanakis (at) helsinki.fi

Laurea University of Applied Sciences– Business Department- Kerava Unit
Design Thinking (for MBA students)
1st Semester (05.09.2011 – 18.11.2011)


Dr. Mariana Salgado

mariana.salgado (at) gmail.com

Aalto University- School of Science and Technology – Department of Architecture

Local Development and Globalisation, (For Master students)

2nd Semester (17.01.2012 –13.05.2012)


Hossam Hewidy

hewidy (at) cc.hut.fi

The teachers and the students of OURcity course in the geography department of Helsinki University after careful thought decided for practical reasons to concentrate on two groups of users of public spaces in Meri-Rastila who seemed to need special attention: youth and adult men. However, looking into these two groups required for the students to also look into other groups of Meri-Rastilians. Even if the focus was placed on residents with ethno-cultural background, students realized that autochthonous people were as important for intercultural public spaces. In such spaces, diverse groups  have possibilities to interact, discuss, and realize that despite their differences their lives have Meri-Rastila as a common ground they need to cherish. The residents our students interviewed made them realize that there is a lack of spaces for such opportunities to emerge in Meri-Rastila.

Autumn 2011. The geography students of OURcity course at Helsinki University in their first visit in Meri-Rastila.

The group of geography students who worked on the theme of public spaces in Meri-Rastila and adult men produced the below:



International migration is changing demographics all over the world. Although Finland seems to be in the edge of the world it has also received its share of international migration. According to statistic (Statistics Finland, 2011), in Helsinki the population of other than Finnish or Swedish speakers was around 10,000, in 1992, while in early 2011 residents of Helsinki speaking languages other than Finnish or Swedish numbered 63,420 (Statistics Finland, 2011) which is almost 10% of the population of Helsinki.

Vaattovaara and Kortteinen (2003) in their article about housing policies in Helsinki explain how the policies aim to mix social groups; different people inhabiting in the same sub-regions. This is accomplished by mixing different tenure types. The aim of the policies is to have heterogeneous and socially balanced neighborhoods (Vaattovaara & Kortteinen 2003). Still, social segregation between districts of Helsinki occurs and is identifiable (Helsingin kaupungin tietokeskus 2010).

With our multicultural enquiries, we investigate if there are public spaces in Meri-Rastila for men and if these spaces facilitate interaction between various cultural groups. By interviewing some Meri-Rastilians we investigate how local people experience their district as a place to interact with other cultures. By analyzing the material from our fieldwork we make suggestions to promote intercultural communication in Meri-Rastila.

Theoretical context and concepts

According to Ridell, Kymäläinen and Nyyssönen (2009) one criterion for public space is openness and accessibility to all. Mitchell (2003) discusses the meanings of public space and ”public”; however, the criteria for openness to all need additional explanation. Goheen (1998) defines public space as a preferred arena where ”groups of every description can achieve public visibility, seek recognition and make demands”.

Goheen (1998) also writes that public spaces have never been public to all people, but only to some groups. This makes our research even more interesting because some cultural and age groups may have their public spaces in Meri-Rastila but these spaces might not be open to other cultural, age, or gender groups.

Meri-Rastila is a sub-district of Vuosaari in eastern Helsinki. In the beginning of the 90’s there were only approximately 2, 500 inhabitants in Meri-Rastila. Soon after, more houses were built and the number of inhabitants started to grow (Statistics Finland, 2011). In chart 1 we see that the number of Finnish-speakers grew until the end of 90’s and then decreased while the number of people speaking other languages increased.

For Finnish standards Meri-Rastila is a highly multicultural area 
where in 2010 lived 5, 224 inhabitants: 3, 670 Finnish speakers, 
167 Swedish speakers and 1, 387 other language speakers 
(Helsingin seudun aluesarjat tilastokanta ja Tilastokeskus, 2011).

Chart 1 Population of Meri-Rastila divided to Finnish, Swedish and other language speakers. (Source: Statistics Finland 2011)

In chart 2 we see the tenure status in Meri-Rastila. In Helsinki the percentage of owner-occupied dwelling is 48% and the rented dwelling percentage is 47%. Vilkama (2010) writes that city authorities housed low-income people, including immigrants, to city-owned houses during the recession of the 90´s. In Meri-Rastila, there seems to be a relatively large number of city-owned housing and that may explain the large number of immigrants living there nowadays.

Chart 2 Tenure status in Meri-Rastila 2010 (Source: Statistics Finland 2011)


We conducted our fieldwork with the help of interviews and mental maps. Ours is a qualitative ethnographic research, and the methods used are those often employed to research cultures (Vuorinen 2005).

Interviewing is a method wherein the researcher and the interviewee discuss widely about the topics that are part of the research. Interviews aim at getting information about peoples’ lives from the people themselves. Our interviews were open like a conversations between two or more people and progressed naturally (Saaranen-Kauppinen & Puusniekka, 2006). Of course there are also problems using interviewing as a research method. For example, Pietilä (2010) writes about how people tend to say things that the researcher wants to hear. In addition, interviewees express their opinions and these cannot be generalized.

In addition we asked some Meri-Rastilians to draw maps about their district. This method of data collection is part of participatory observation wherein a researcher asks local people to draw maps that represent their perceptions and knowledge about an area (IAPAD 2011).


The perception of Meri-Rastila by its inhabitants

The residents Meri-Rastila have a variety of perspectives about their region depending on, among others, their age, ethnicity, civil status and religion. On the basis of our interviews and mental maps, the results are quite similar amongst residents who have common characteristics. It was perplexing to get holistic perceptions of local residents about their neighborhood because they wouldn’t consider their living environment negatively.

When analyzing mental maps we found quite similar results. The main places of interest in the area are: the Metro station, the main road and S-Market (see pictures 1 and 2). The Metro station is also represented in picture 3.

Indeed, Meri-Rastila does not seem to have a sense of space in itself, it rather has to be attached to other regions. In Meri-Rastila people reside and use the nearby forest for recreation, but that’s about it. For all the other activities, the areas of Vuosaari and Itäkeskus are usually used.

Picture 3 The metro station of Meri-Rastila

Considering spatial perceptions, Somalis usually understand their neighborhood optimistically. According to the few Somalis we interviewed, they think that there are enough services even though there are many shortages concerning amenities, proper meeting and public places. Some residents consider Meri-Rastia as a “touristic place”, just for temporary not for permanent stay. The Somali association named ‘SEMO’ is quite important for some Somali men because there’s no other place in the area to meet. Actually, the function of ‘SEMO’ does not seem so much like an association, but more like a place for Somali men to get together, play cards, watch television, and women are not accepted. Moreover, several Somali men feel unwelcome in SEMO, because of clan and tribe divisions among Somali people.

The perceptions of Kurdish residents are also affirmative. They do not feel themselves excluded compared to Somalis. They are aware of their dissociation with other communities, but they don’t see this as a problem. Thus, their perceptions about and attitudes towards Meri-Rastila are optimistic.

A reason why Kurdish, Somalis and Moroccan people are generally satisfied can be their religion. According to Islam it’s enough if Muslim people have a place for praying, because the mosque is the centre of social life, and a public and meeting place. As Hughes (1906) writes: ‘In all ages, in Muslim countries, the mosque has been the centre of education, intellectual culture, religious thought, and philanthropic effort. It has been the place of prayer, and seclusion; the school, the library, the hospital, and the university. Even in the present day there are libraries connected with mosques…’ Muslims learn that they should be happy with what they have. Another explanation may be that most immigrants are coming from developing countries often with a negative past; therefore, they perceive Meri-Rastila optimistically.

Muslim men interviewed agree that the lack of interaction between communities is derived from the lack of common interests, and meeting places for diverse cultures. On the other hand, one of our interviewees feels excluded because of his different ethnicity, skin colour, religion and language.

Finnish residents have less interaction with other communities. They seem not to perceive the lack of meeting places as a problem. Probably they are well accommodated – after all it is their home-country – and have their own social networks, services, and places for leisure.

Finding Russians for our fieldwork was difficult and we do not have any interviews from them. Some information about Russians we got through an interview with a social worker in the area. Russians seem to like natural activities like fishing and collecting berries and mushrooms. They do not often use public places fir leisure (Pylkkänen 2011). In picture 4 we see one of the forest areas in Meri-Rastila.

What people want for the district?

According to the men interviewed in Meri-Rastila they are quite pleased with their district, and all of them have leisure activities for their free time. But some pointed to the lack of, particularly, opportunities to meet other cultures.

Some Finnish residents of Meri-Rastila said that they don’t need interaction with the other communities but they have no problem to meet them, and they agree that there are not enough meeting places. Indeed, if there is no place for people to meet, then they cannot be together and the residents with immigrant backgrounds cannot integrate. The different associations are not places where people can have interaction with other communities because they seem closed.

People admit that they need better places where they could sit and discuss. In picture 5 we see the empty main square of Meri-Rastila. According to our observations the square does not seem like a place where people would like to spend time; it is just a place to go through. There are three benches for sitting, in front of the market. As Michèle (2003) explains maybe authorities do not want people spending time and hanging around public spaces, and this attitude may explain the lack of facilities.

The same problem we identified in the parks and the streets: people can walk but there are no facilities for sitting down (picture 6). Without benches, elderly people may avoid these areas because they can’t rest.

The men interviewed pointed to the lack of sport facilities. In Meri-Rastila the infrastructure for sports is not efficient; for example, the football field (picture 7) is in a bad condition and there is no programming. Furthermore, there are no benches for people to watch football games.

It was interesting for us to realise that people who live in Meri-Rastila, whatever their background may be, look for or at least don’t oppose to, interactions with people from other communities. These kinds of interactions seem to take place more amongst younger generations. For young people it is easier to interact across cultures because they grow up together with children from different ethnic groups at school and sports; therefore, it is possible that multiculturalism will gain more ground. It may be more difficult for older generations to meet new people because they have already friends, networks, activities, etc.


After our different encounters and interviews in Meri-Rastila, we tried to imagine some spaces that could provide to Meri-Rastila’s men with opportunities to meet with each other. The aim is to think of a place that every community could use, so that men from these different communities can discuss and learn about each other. The main task was to find activities in which people from every community could be interested.

Our research for common grounds between the different communities led us to the following propositions:


It is proved that sports are good ways to bring together people of different cultures and backgrounds. The rugby World Cup of 1995 in South-Africa which encouraged people to overcome racist divisions must be a good example. When we asked inhabitants of Meri-Rastila if they have ideas for an activity that everyone could enjoy, football was the most common answer. In his research (Zacheus 2011) found that sports and exercise help immigrants to integrate better in Finnish society and at the same time lower cultural dividers.

People from each community were really positive about the idea of football games. There is already a football field in Meri-Rastila but it seems inefficient and there are not so many users. A larger field where some tournaments could take place would improve the situation considerably. Maybe in the future, a multicultural football team of Meri-Rastila could be created.

Renovating the main square

The main square of Meri-Rastila can improve with some good will and resources. Indeed, some trees and benches could turn the area into a really pleasant place, so that people would want to spend time there. In order to attract people and to revitalize the place, we propose the creation of an alcohol-free café where food and beverages would be on offer from all cultures present in Meri-Rastila.

 An international Diner

During our interviews, some people evoked the idea of meeting around food. An international dinner, where the different communities could share their recipes and cook dishes from various cultures, is a good way to make people learn more about each other. Like in the popular Dufferin Grove Park in Toronto[1], food can be a common ground for different communities. This type of project can take different forms; we thought about the organization of an international dinner once a month when dishes from different communities could be prepared and consumed.

An association of multiculturalism

The idea was inspired by the people of Fokka café, which is quite an important place in Meri-Rastila. An «association of multiculturalism» would organize different events and activities such as fishing or watching TV matches. This association could also provide some Finnish courses that are important for immigrants’ integration. There is a real demand for Finnish courses in Meri-Rastila. Furthermore, language courses are a good way to bring people together: in the Finnish course which already takes place in Meri-Rastila, people often stay for a while to chat after the course.


Goheen P. (1998). Public space and the geography of the modern cit. Progress in Human Geography. 22:4, 479–496

Michèle J. (2003) Guand la ville invite à s’asseoir, le banc public parisien et la tentation de dépose, When the city offers a sit. 94, 107–115

Helsingin kaupungin tietokeskus. (2010). Asuntokuntien tulot Helsingissä 1995 – 2007. 2010 Tilastoja  8.

Helsingin seudun aluesarjat tilastokanta.(2011).

Hughes T. (1906). The Mosque Life of the Muslim. The Open Court Magazine, June.

IAPAD. (2011). Participatory mapping glossary. [internet publication].

<http://www.iapad.org/glossary/M.htm&gt;. (Cited 23.10.2011).

Mitchell D. (2003) The End of Public Space? People’s Park, the Public, and the Right to the City.The Guilford Press, New York

Pietilä, I. (2010). Ryhmä- ja yksilöhaastattelun diskursiivinen analyysi. Kaksi aineistoa erilaisina vuorovaikutuksen kenttinä. In Ruusuvuori, J., P. Nikander & M. Hyvärinen (ed.): Haastattelun analyysi, 212–241. Vastapaino, Tampere.

Pylkkänen J. (2011). Social worker. Interview 14.10.2011

Ridell S. P. Kymäläinen & T. Nyyssönen (2009). Julkisen tilan poetiikkaa ja politiikkaa Tampereen Yliopistopaino Oy, Tampere

Saaranen-Kauppinen A. & A. Puusniekka. (2006). KvaliMOTV – Menetelmäopetuksen tietovaranto

[internet publication]. Tampere : Yhteiskuntatieteellinen tietoarkisto [administrator and publisher]. <http://www.fsd.uta.fi/menetelmaopetus/&gt;. (Cited 22.10.2011.)

Statistics Finland. (2011).

Vaattovaara M, M. Kortteinen.(2003). Beyond Polarisation versus Professionalisation? A Case Study of the Development of the Helsinki Region, Finland. Urban Studies 40:11, 2127–2145

Vilkama K. (2010). Kaupungin laidalla. Kantaväestön ja maahanmuuttajataustaisten alueellinen eriytyminen Helsingissä. Terra 122: 4, 183–200

Vuorinen, K., S. Ovaska, A. Aula & Majaranta, P. (ed.). (2005). Etnografia. Käytettävyystutkimuksen menetelmät, 63–78. Tampereen yliopisto, Tietojenkäsittelytieteiden laitos B-2005-1.

Zacheus T. (2011). Liikunta monen kulttuurin kohtauspaikaksi? Liikunta ja tiede, 48:4, 10–15


Hanna Käyhkö (the cover picture)

Mylene Lubin (pictures 1-7)

[1] Interview of public space activist Jutta Mason by Michail Galanakis (2011).

The group of geography students who worked on the theme of public spaces in Meri-Rastila and youth produced the below:


Young adults in Meri-Rastila


The aim of the study was to investigate potential intercultural public space in Meri-Rastila. Our focus, the space of and for young adults, got clear during the first visit in the area. We then noticed that in Meri-Rastila there is lack of space for young adults (between 18-25 ages) to use during their leisure time. We – four students from different countries (France, Finland and Turkey) – conducted our fieldwork using qualitative methods.  Our methods of investigation progressed during each visit. The purpose of our field work was to get a clear image of the social, physical and symbolic factors in the environment that decrease the social involvement of young adults. Our data was then analyzed referring to academic literature. Finally, with our study we suggest a few ways how to build space that, without ignoring other groups, would include young adults. Important characteristics of such spaces are discussed and illustrated.

1. Methodology of fieldwork:

1)     Visit guided by Seija Välimäki:

Our first walk in Meri-Rastila. Seija and Bobbie introduced the neighbourhood, some of its problems, some key places, connections and people we could contact. At this time we all remarked that something was needed in the area for men and youth-adults.

2)     Second visit:

We were looking at the physical structure of the neighbourhood because we were not familiar with it, and we wanted to better understand the place and how it works. We were all four of us at this visit and therefore we had several advantages:

–        Our own view as young-adults and keeping in mind the theoretical background of OurCity course helped us in looking for spaces for young-adults.

–        Our different cultural backgrounds gave us different perspectives on places.

–        Walking and talking together allowed us to discuss our ideas, elaborate our views of the neighbourhood, and to start discussing about what could be improve, why, and how.

3)     Plans of fieldwork

What we planned just after the course on methods by Mariana Salgado:

–        Structured interviews with residents at HOAS (student housing) buildings.

–        A workshop with 3 Finnish girls (acquaintances of one of our group members). We planned to ask them to take 2 pictures of places that they like in Meri-Rastila, to draw a mental map of the neighbourhood with the places that they use or like, and to answer to our questionnaire. We planned to meet them and to present 4 stories that we made in order to show their reactions and start the discussion.

–        Interviews of other peoples: points of view of adults on the group of young-adults and on their place in the neighbourhood.

–        Interviews of young-adults in Meri-Rastila: BUT where could we found them?

4)     Changes in plans

What we did: during several visits in groups of 2.

–        The workshop with the 3 girls did not work because they never answered to our requests.

–        We visited the youth centre and the Hard Gospel Café in Columbus mall in order to find youth-adults from Meri-Rastila, to look into the places they use inside and outside the neighbourhood, what are characteristics of those places and what they think about multiculturalism.

–        We conducted interviews at HOAS building: to define the involvement, uses and connections of students with Meri-Rastila. We used a formal questionnaire but we ended up mostly just talking to tenants. We thought that this was a better way to contact students because this was a student house and a lot of people were between 18 and 25 years old and because the buildings are looking independent. We saw that access to entrance-doors was not easy. We eventually understood that our questions were not very good. We decided to change them for the next steps. From this moment on we did not anymore ask what places young-adults use in Meri-Rastila but where they spend their free time in order to define what characteristics those places have.

–        Visiting the Kurdish and the Somali associations: to ask if they propose some activities for young-adults and if young-adults use their premises. We also wanted to know if there are some places for young-adults in Meri-Rastila, what is their point of view concerning youngsters and multiculturalism.

–        Random interviews with adults, youngsters and young-adults: to define the characteristics of spaces that they use and to ask about safety and possible connections in-between communities. The difficulty was to break the ice, to start talking, and to intercept people on the street.

–        One evening observation: we went in Meri-Rastila on a Saturday evening to see how it is, especially regarding safety.

During this time we discussed our plans after every visit in Meri-Rastila and we made adjustments to improve our methods.

2. Results:

Gender Age Nationality of origin Occupation Place of interview
female 17 Finnish Front of S-Market
female 23 Finnish Front of S-Market
female 17 Finnish Front of S-Market
female 16 Finnish Front of S-Market
female ~30 Finnish Youth worker Hard Gospel Cafe
male 22 Finnish Youth worker M-R Youth Centre
female 19-25 Kurdish Student Hoas
male 19-25 Dutch Student Hoas
female 19-25 Finnish Student Hoas
female 19 Finnish Student Hoas
female 26 German Student Hoas
female 19-25 Austria Student Hoas
male 19-25 Austria Student Hoas
female 18 Finnish Student Hoas
female 19-25 French Student Hoas
male 30-35 Somali involved in Somali’s association Somali’s association
male 40-45 Somali “friend” of  Somali’s association Somali’s association
male 35-40 non Finish Somali’s association
female ~45 Finnish Youth worker M-R Youth Centre
female ~25 Finnish Youth worker M-R Youth Centre
female ~30 Finnish mother of young children central playground
male 18 Finnish Student Front of S-Market
male 22 Finnish Student Front of S-Market
male 23 Finnish fight sport coach in M-R Front of S-Market
male 30-35 non Finish worker in a restaurant Restaurant near S-Market
female 21 Kurdish student ? Kurdish association
male 35 Kurdish involved in Kurdish association Kurdish association

Table 1: demographics of interviewed people

Age Nationality of origin
Gender <18 12% Finnish 58%
female 62% 18-25 58% Somali 8%
male 42% >25 35% Kurdish 12%
Other 27%

Table 2: statistics of interviewed people


General physical structure

The Meri-Rastila neighbourhood can be described by seven main physical components: 1) Estate building apartments that are located around the central park “Reikäleipä puisto”; 2) Buildings that are connected together by the main road Meri-Rastilantie; 3) The one-family-house area that is located in the southern part of Meri-Rastila; 4) The main square with some services ; 5) the services found near the metro station; 6) The Metro line that links Meri-Rastila to other parts of Helsinki; 7) Nature that surrounds the whole neighbourhood.

(Public) space in Meri-Rastila

The square is probably the most used place in Meri-Rastila. It is used mainly as a thoroughfare and only few people stand there. The square is open, empty and well controlled by Police. Little effort has been made to beautify the square. The overall atmosphere is not pleasant or welcoming.

The apartment buildings are situated so that a private garden lie in-between them, where playgrounds for children fill most of the space. The HOAS buildings are located on the edge of the area, near-by the metro station. We observed no children playing although we saw good playground facilities in the HOAS garden as well. In the HOAS garden we saw a barbeque place although in a very bad condition.

Good roads (walk ways and car roads) interconnect the area. By night roads are well lit. Only few benches are found and they are located in open places. Reikäleipä–park is like a piece of forest in the middle of yhe neighbourhood. There are good paths for walking. Near by the park there is football field, a basketball place and skateboarding ramp.

Leisure time services in Meri-Rastila

Services are located near-by the main square. Finnish of 40 and above years old use the bar in the square mainly for alcohol consumption. The ABC gas station is supposed to be a meeting place; something we didn’t observe during our visits. The Kurdish and Somali associations are used for cultural and political purposes and cater to people from certain cultural backgrounds. At the youth centre they organize activities for youngsters under 18 years old, and for children, as many other youth centres in Helsinki do as well. The Haruspuisto playground is a main hub in the field of leisure time, but activities are related more to kids and their families.

The use of the space by young adults in Meri-Rastila:

Young adults use only a few places in Meri-Rastila for leisure. The outdoor recreational area is used for sports. The main loitering place seems to be the barbeque place outside the residential area, and the square is also used for that purpose sometimes. The football field is used occasionally. The basketball place is not used because of the bad condition of the facilities. At the Kurdish association some young adults get cultural education. The Somali association is used sometimes as a meeting place for Somali young men. Youngsters older than 18 years spend time in the Youth Centre. The Metro and S-marked are named as the most important services in the area.

Young adults and leisure activities:

Meeting friends and possibilities to meet new people are important aspects of free time. Young men spend their free time playing football and basketball, and practicing skateboarding. Outdoor activities like walking and jogging are quite popular. Women seem to gather in cafes and shops more than man. Places outside Meri-Rastila that are used for leisure purposes are: the beach of Vuosaari; night clubs and bars in the centre of Helsinki; the malls of Itäkeskus and Vuosaari.

Perceived environment

The lack of places where to spent free time was mentioned to us as the biggest problem in the area. Furthermore, young-adults are not interested in developing the area. Our informants mentioned the problems concerning the practices of control by the Police, while inebriate people were not perceived as frightening. If serious drug problems exist in the area people generally didn’t see them. The area was perceived generally as safe and peaceful. According to our female informants most empty places were seen as frightening. For adult men the presence of other groups of young adults seems to be threatening. Generally speaking safety was achieved mainly by being with friends.

We found some contradictions in the ways the area was perceived. Some informants mentioned that Meri-Rastila is a sleeping place and that the contacts with other people or places is Meri-Rastila are weak. On the contrary some of the young people we spoke to were seemed quite involved in Meri-Rastila and described it as a little village where people know each other. We, however, identified that there was an agreement amongst our informants regarding multiculturalism: Meri-Rastila was seen as a multicultural space where young adults are well mixed. Group affiliations are based more on other parameters than young-adults’ cultural backgrounds.

Young adults space seen by others

Most our informants generally agreed that there is lack of places where young adults could spend time in Meri-Rastila. Places that exist – for instance the Kurdish and Somali associations and the Hard Gospel Café – don’t support intercultural communication, although intercultural communication was seen as a positive aspect. There was interest in enhancing intercultural communication, but nothing was really done to achieve this. In the Hard Gospel Café we found out about some efforts to invite young adults over 18 years old to take part in some activities. The aspects that young-adults found important were low prices, a relaxed environment, possibilities for different activities, and age limit.

3. Exclusion and inclusion

The current imbalances in the migration patterns and demographic structures between the autochthonous and the immigrant populations are likely to increase the level of residential segregation in Helsinki in the future. This may take place through several interrelated socio-spatial processes, such as increasing school segregation and stigmatization. International examples on the segregation processes suggest that the cycles of native flight and avoidance are often connected to the processes of stigmatization that in turn are generated and maintained either by the perceived or the actual poor conditions of residential areas. (Krysan, 2002; Andersson & Molina, 2003)

On the contrary, Meri-Rastila shows the properties of an intercultural place. In this area Finns and people who come from Turkey, Somalia, Russia, and elsewhere, live together. When we think about segregation, we realize that there is no intense segregation in Meri-Rastila, but we can observe ‘’segregation’’ for young people.  If we consider the physical structure of Meri-Rastila, we realize that while the place is more useful for families with children, it is not useful for young and elderly people. Instead of specific facilities, most places were designed for middle-aged people. As a result it is unavoidable it seems for young adults to be almost absent in the area. In other words, there are no attractions to keep young people in Meri-Rastila, and there are processes of exclusion and inclusion taking place simultaneously that explain the situation.

No spaces for young adults

There are many factors that keep young people outside Meri-Rastila. First of all, if we analyze the physical structure, we realize that social connection is not easy and the place has many exclusionary factors. In Meri-Rastila, there are a lot of playgrounds for children, but the playgrounds are fenced or surrounded by buildings as every few blocks have their own playgrounds. So people do not have to go to a common playground and connect with other people while watching for their children. (Figure: 2) In addition to this, there are no benches in the playground of Hoas building. The situation makes the playground useless for spending time. (Figure: 1)

Figure1: The benches without sitting places. It is an obstacle for using the playground.

Figure: 2: Every four or five buildings have their own playground so it makes social connection impossible.

In addition the pavement of the square is not useful for skating. This is a square that has many constrains for young people. In such a public place, authorities seem to prefer this kind of constrains for keeping the place empty. They may think that if a place is full of people, it may also become uncontrollable. Both too much social and police control make the places useless for young people. According to Pain (2001: 906), young men are viewed as potentially dangerous or criminal because of their age and gender and they also identify with such stereotypes. Some are harassed by the police, and others are aware of how they may be perceived by elderly people.

In addition to physical obstacles, there are some social obstacles. The physical structure influences the social structure in Meri-Rastila. The young adults cannot get together in Meri-Rastila, because of the physical structure and lack of facilities. Instead of the market, the green area and the square, there are no places for gathering in Meri-Rastila. So youngsters have to go to the city center, Vuosaari or Itakeskus. There are also a few facilities for hobbies such as soccer fields and cycling areas, but there are no social activities or events for keeping young people in Meri-Rastila.

Places for young adults

If we consider the situation in Meri-Rastila, we can find some pull factors for young people. First of all if we think of the present facilities, we realize that the soccer field is not enough for this area, because it is small and poorly maintained. The benches around the field are not enough, and they are placed facing the opposite direction of the field. The benches seem to be placed without much thought. When people sit on the benches, they only see the entrance to the park. The number of benches must increase and also the soccer field must be enlarged.

In addition to these, another pull factor is less social and police control. Human behaviors under pressure are far from being natural human behaviors. The pressure of control keeps apart people and their places and it affects human behavior negatively. So if there is pressure for young people in certain areas, they will not feel comfortable and start avoid using these areas in the future. As a result of this situation, young people prefer to go outside of such heavily controlled areas. In Meri-Rastila, we observed that this situation affects young people. They do not feel comfortable because of police and social control. If police and social control were moderate, young-adults’ displacement would be decreased. Another pull as well as a push factor, we think is the lack of a meeting place in Meri-Rastila. There is no place for meeting or getting new friends in Meri-Rastila. There are a few places for kids, elderly people, but there is no place for young people who are older than eighteen. Such places should be cheap enough for young people. Moreover, there should be some social activities, concerts, and festivals for keeping young people in Meri-Rastila and also for making the area more lively and appealing. There should be a place for both Muslim and non-Muslim people to gather. Actually such a place should not have any symbol of one religion, society or group of people. Such a place should be multicultural facilitating the formation of a place-bound identity and pride for all the residents of Meri-Rastila. Additionally, in order to support more social connections within the area there should be kiosks, barbeque places or more facilities for leisure and hanging around. Furthermore, if young adults themselves manage these places then strong social connection may be inevitable.

4. Dreaming of the Reikäleipä-park

There should be a place for meeting, making new friends, hanging around and sharing. Such a place could be located in the park, near the soccer field, skateboard area and so on, because the park itself is located in the middle of Meri-Rastila. When we observe the location of the area, we can see that the area is very useful for meetings. Moreover, there could be a kiosk in the park with some tables, seats or … some daises. In the winter time there could be a skating rink and warm beverages could warm up and keep people in the area. If Meri-Rastila was adorned in a more friendly way, it would become a more attractive place for both young and other people. In addition to this, the multicultural structure of Meri-Rastila should not be overlooked. The main aim should be ‘’ So many events and places for so many different people.’’

5. References

–       Krysan, M. 2002. Whites who say they`d flee: who are they, and why would they leave? Demography, 39:4, 675-96.

–       Andersson, R. & A. Brama (2004). Selective Migration in Swedish Distressed Neighborhoods: Can Area-based Urban Policies Counteract Segregation Processes? Housing Studies, 19:4, 517-39.

–       Pain R. 2001. Gender, Race, Age and Fear in the City. Urban Studies, Vol. 38, Nos 5-6 , 899-913

–       Vilkama K. 2011. Moving in or moving out? Development of residential concentration of immigrants in Helsinki. Urban Geography, Department of Geography, University of Helsinki.

One response to “5-OURCourses

  1. Fantastic site. Lots of useful information here.
    I am sending it to several pals ans additionally sharing in delicious.

    And obviously, thanks in your sweat!

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