Setting up Suvilahti

Stuba Nikula

As I mentioned from the beginning of 2008 we have been responsible of two culture centres. After the 15 years of what some people call the success of The Cable Factory and some others just see as not getting bankrupt running The Cable Factory. The city gave us another project to run. It is an old power production area. It is east side city centre an old electricity plant and gas factory. It is actually 9 buildings and only ⅓ of the surface of The Cable Factory 18,500 m² so physically it is very different from the one big building of The Cable Factory.

Because of many reasons it took us much time to start thinking what do we want the Suvilahti to be. The first idea was to use the good principles that have been proved as good in The Cable Factory. We also had to learn from the mistakes done in there. And I can ensure that it was a painful process.

It took us a year roughly to go through whatever we are doing in The Cable Factory and the history of the 15 years of history of The Cable Factory and admitting us that some things that we did there in certain ways were a mistakes and we do not want to re-do them. Most of it had to do with not only concentrating on your own centre. In Suvilahti we are very much more in contact with the town planning department, with the cultural or artistic tenants around Suvilahti which are the academy of fine arts, the theatre academy. There are much more interesting things around Suvilahti and we want to create not only a good culture center but we want to develop a good part of Helsinki. So that the people who are using these services or spaces in that area do not actually have to know when they are crossing the border of our plot from to the neighbours plot. They are just happy to enjoy a good interesting part of Helsinki.

The main cultural genre of The Cable Factory is visual arts, contemporary dance and the bands in the basement, plus the three museums in the corner of the building. We decided that Suvilahti has to have a different profile and artistic profile as well. When we looked at what was going on in the cultural field of Helsinki and Finland and of course we have had more that 300 enquiries to rent spaces from Suvilahti during the first 6-8 months. So it became very clear that the contemporary circus and small independent theatre groups were the ones that really were in the need for spaces. And that is what we have been working on until now. Year and a half ago we opened the contemporary circus center called Cirko. At the end of this year a circus school will move there. We already have 4 theatres rehearsal spaces and we will start to work on a small theatre space. So in a way we are using the same methods, the same knowledge and same contact with the culture field but we want to create something different. The biggest thing there is that the physical area, the structure of that factory is totally different. 

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Stuba Nikula

Stuba Nikula

Managing director of Kaapeli and Suvilahti in Helsinki, Finland

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