Don’t Plan! The Use of the Notion of ‘Culture’ in Transforming Obsolete Industrial Space


How is the notion of ‘culture’ understood and used in planning the transformation of obsolete industrial space? This article analyses the evidence from a current planning project in Suvilahti, Helsinki. It shows that ‘culture’ is imagined and employed as an instrument capable of producing difference in urban space. The transformation of the Cable Factory in Helsinki and the subsequent consensus on the importance of ‘culture’ are shown to have influenced the planning of Suvilahti. On the one hand, planning is being carried out with a deliberate minimization of planning interventions and the promotion of the spontaneous, non‐planned practices of cultural producers: the future Suvilahti is imagined as a ‘cultural enclave’ and its community is characterized as a ‘living organism’. On the other, ‘culture’ is planned in terms of its supposedly positive effects on urban space. Planners do not want to interfere with the non‐planned character of ‘cultural production’, yet at the same time they express certainty about cultural production’s positive spatial and socioeconomic effects. The transformation of Suvilahti is playing an important part in the large‐scale planning project to redevelop the old industrial harbour in Kalasatama, Helsinki. The changes in the nature of planning are analysed under the concept of cultural governmentality.