What is The Cable Factory?

Stuba Nikula

My name is Stuba Nikula. I am the managing director of the real estate company Kaapelitalo Helsinki. The company is owned by a city of Helsinki, which is currently running and developing 2 culture centers.

The company started in 1992 with The Cable Factory project, which actually started two and half years before we did. The building being a big old industrial plan for cable production used to belong to Nokia cooperation back on the days when they still made rubber boots, toilette paper and cables. In the late 80’ the production moved out and Nokia started to rent the spaces to more or less whoever and whatever just to make some money out of the building. They did not know what to do with it.

In the spring of 1989 some 30 visual artists, photographers and architecture students and architects rented they work spaces here and started to lobby the city of Helsinki to convert this into a cultural center. Their idea of the cultural center was that there should be an entity providing as little administration and planning as possible but still to have an owner for the project. In October 1991 the city of Helsinki made a deal with Nokia and acquired the building and the land back. They founded the real estate company to develop the center. The company had two tasks. They had to renovate the building and rent the spaces for arts, culture and what was then called businesses related to that. Nobody talked about creative industries or Richard Florida on back of those days.

The building was in a very bad condition physically of course. So the company actually more or less just started to renovate the electricity, plumbing, windows, doors all these normal real estate issues and rented out the spaces for arts and artists associations. And in the beginning there was no big plan of what would be the result of The Cable Factory, what would be The Cable Factory when it is filled or finished or renovated or whatever. After 7 years of operations there was a big discussion between the tenants and the company and the city and the board of the company what should be The Cable Factory. After those discussions it was decided that the main focuses of The Cable Factory would be visual arts, contemporary dance, band rehearsal rooms and that the 3 museums that were elsewhere in Helsinki would move into The Cable Factory and form something like a museum complex inside the building. Currently we have 250 tenants in the building, 130 artist studios, 50 band rehearsal rooms, 4 art schools, the 3 mentioned museums and 60 companies or cultural organizations.

For the last 5 years we have also been responsible for developing another culture centre called Suvilahti, which is an old energy production area on the eastern side of the city centre. It are an old electricity factory and a gas factory which were more or less abandoned in the 70’ and that had a split and a very mixed ownership structure. Once the harbours of Helsinki moved to Vuosaari 20 km east from the city centre the area right next to Suvilahti became one of the big development areas. The city decided to acquire the ownership of the area and start a development process that would then someday become something similar to The Cable Factory.

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Stuba Nikula

Stuba Nikula

Managing director of Kaapeli and Suvilahti in Helsinki, Finland

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