Contemporary Design

For Central Park

by Sirena Nieminen
a close-up of a tree that has been marked by paint
Stop deforestation!

 

'For Central Park' is a project with an activist aspect for Central Park Helsinki, that is a 10-kilometers long forest that starts from the city centre in Laakso and ends up at the river Vantaanjoki. Helsinki City is cutting the forest from the way of a new sports hall and a parking lot in Pirkkola. This unique forest must be preserved and not be deforested anymore. It’s rare to have a forest in the middle of the capital city. Bertel Jung, ‘a father’ of Central Park had a vision of the forest that starts from Helsinki and goes all the way up to Lapland - that one could basically walk through Finland in a forest. 

In the future Helsinki City is planning to cut Central Park and other forests even more from the way of new land use plans. These plans must be questioned and made visible to citizens of Helsinki. We should fight against deforestation as it is essential for our well-being.

There is an ongoing petition against the building project in Pirkkola, which you may sign here: bit.ly/pirkkola

a poster of a petition to save a forest from a parking lot
Petition for saving Central Park in Pirkkola

Process

The idea for this project came from my own surroundings - my jogging route. I saw letters and signs attached on trees, left there by concerned citizens. It gave me an idea that I have to do something also myself to protect our forest! I wanted to take the role of design activist and make this problem visible somehow. There are different forms of design activism and my project goes to the borderline of environmental activism and artivism aka environmental artivism, which means using art as an instrument to gain changes in environmental issues. According to The Broker, visual arts in activism is needed especially in the countries, where demonstrations are banned, organizations shut down or media is censored – art may be the only way to say something.

a note attached to a tree that says "let this tree live, it was here before you and has grown patiently"
Sign attached by one citizen on one of trees in Central Park Pirkkola. It says: “Let this tree live. It was here before you, growing patiently.”

I started my research by watching Youtube-videos of environmental activism, artivism and environmental art and noticed quickly that I definitely don’t want to take the radical role of activism, but rather emotional. My research consisted also of websites, articles, TED talks, documentaries and books.In this case I started thinking about, what is a good media to share knowledge in today’s society in a powerful way. Taking account of this time when people are more and more involved in the world social media networks, digital storytelling in a form of video is gaining more audience than making for example an installation or workshop in some place locally. Considering also the tight schedule, my original plans of meetings with actives didn’t succeed so in this situation I decided to take things in my own hands – and make a video. Otherwise, networking is essential when the aim is to make changes!

 

Quotes from Alastair Fuad-Luke’s book

’Design Activism: beautiful strangeness for a sustainable world’

”Design activism is ’design thinking, imagination and practice applied knowingly or unknowingly to create a counter-narrative aimed at generating and balancing positive social, institutional, environmental and/or economic change’.

”Activism is about motivating, activating and transforming people.”

“Design activist is a person who uses the power of design for the greater good for humankind and nature. A person who is free agent; a non-aligned social broker and catalyst; a facilitator; an author; a creator; a co-author; a co-creator; and a happener (someone who makes things happen).”

 

Fuad-Luke, Alastair (2009): Design activism: beautiful strangeness for a sustainable world

Outcome

‘For Central Park’ is a tribute video, not only for Central Park Helsinki, but for all the forests that are being destroyed by humans. This video is aiming to create an atmosphere of the final moments of the forest by visuals and specifically designed soundscape. It aims to question our values by comparing forest with greyness and car flows - what really is important to us? We don’t have to just accept every plan of urban settings. We can make a difference by making things more visible.

English translation for the texts in the video:

“Not even a piece away

If there were no forests

The animals had no home

And we had no oxygen

We are floating away..

Not even a piece

away.”

 

For Central Park, Sirena Nieminen

Video & photos: Sirena Nieminen

Music: Sirena Nieminen and Joona Kilpeläinen

References supporting the process:

Literature:

Fuad-Luke, A. 2009. Design activism: beautiful strangeness for a sustainable world

Lowenhaupt Tsing, A. 2015. The Mushroom at the End of the World On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins

The Broker. 2017. Activism, artivism and beyond.Inspiring initiatives of civic power. (https://www.thebrokeronline.eu/wp-content/uploads/attachments/Activism%2C+Artivism+and+Beyond+-+PDF+2017.pdf)

Youtube:

TED-talk by Suzanne Simard: How trees talk to each other https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Un2yBgIAxYs&list=PLPIoWtVw76b44c3YjCLWg4A1ZVu2qPM1D&index=4&t=0s

VPRO Documentary: Trees will save our planet

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjDWLaGjGi0

VPRO Documentary (2012): Regreening the deserts with John D. Liu

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDgDWbQtlKI

Websites:

Central Park and Helsinki City plans:

https://forest.fi/fi/artikkeli/helsingin-keskuspuisto-on-pikemminkin-keskusmetsa/

https://www.hel.fi/kaupunkiymparisto/fi/paatoksenteko/kaupunkiymparistolautakunta/

https://keskuspuisto.info/

https://www.myhelsinki.fi/en/see-and-do/nature/central-park-the-central-forest-running-the-length-of-helsinki

https://www.sttinfo.fi/tiedote/ihmiset-ketjuun-uhatun-keskuspuiston-puolesta-la-278?publisherId=4081&releaseId=49977787

Environmental activism / environmental art:

https://artistsandclimatechange.com/2018/01/29/the-10-most-pioneering-art-sustainability-initiatives-in-taiwan/

https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/importance-types-examples-environmental-activism.php

https://www.pandasecurity.com/en/mediacenter/technology/what-is-hacktivism

http://www.orankiart.fi/nayttelyt/orankiart20.html

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