From industrial wasteland to urban oasis with the help of art

Aalto University's partnership with Flow festival gives the visitors numerous art and cultural experiences.
Students illustrate a 100 meters mural wall for Flow. Juliana Hyrri painting. Photo: Aalto University.

As late as mid-July, there is still no sign that one of the largest music events in Europe will happen here next month. The location is basic enough: a dirt-and-asphalt parking lot, ringed with building sites, industrial skeletons and a four-lane highway. Lorries come in and out all day, delivering gravel and other supplies. Black tyre rings in the middle of the lot attest that a few local hotrod enthusiasts use the space to ‘burn rubber’. But in less than a week, this place will start its change.

Flow Festival is one of the largest music events in Europe, but it is more than that. Not just because of the musical lineup, which mixes genres freely. What makes Flow exceptional is the way it moves beyond the music and creates a creative space alongside it: a space for play, for exploration, for creative exuberance. Nothing shows this better than the space itself: set in an industrial no-man’s-land, tucked between a coal power plant, construction cranes and small mountains of rubble, the site does not exactly exude creativity.

That’s where the collaboration with Aalto University comes in. Over 40 students, plus university staff, have been involved in creating the artwork and architecture which adorns the festival grounds. For Aalto, creating art for Flow exposes festivalgoers to the creative energy of Aalto students and gives students a platform to present their work. David Lewis, Senior Manager of Brand and Marketing at Aalto University, says of the project, “I see our students reclaiming these spaces. Recasting them to be beautiful, compelling - something new. It is important that we can see this festival experience as a chance to revalue design as an instructive part of our community.  A way to reimagine our shared urban spaces, our parking lots and our forgotten corners.”

Aika-lava: A pop-up stage with a difference

At the heart of the Aalto-Flow collaboration is Aika-lava, Finnish for Time Stage. It was designed by two students from Aalto’s Wood Programme for Finland’s 100-year celebration in 2017 as a public pavilion that is quick to build with simple materials, but with an aesthetic touch.

Aika-lava's space is defined by wishbone-like vertical members bearing the roof while catching the sunlight. The play of light and shadows changes throughout the day. “Contemporary building methods are often complicated due to endless components and layers,” said Ransu Helenius, producer at the Aalto University Wood Programme. “Aika-lava does it a bit differently: using most modern 3D manufacturing methods, it harkens back for example to the rib vaults of Gothic churches. They ae decorative, but first and foremost they are decorative by their simple structural features."

During Flow, the building will house tired festivalgoers and half a dozen handmade arcade games built by Aalto computer science and media students. Each game works with simple, robust technology – like colour-changing lights or knocking sounds – to engage visitors. The games are built out of plywood and fit into the aesthetics of the structure. 

The games, Aika-lava and a 100-meter mural wall at the festival are all part of a larger project: building a creative momentum, making space for and harnessing creative energy for transformation.

In one week, the music will have stopped. The grass will be gone, and working crews will be changing the space back into a parking lot and construction site. If anything will be left of the artwork at the Flow Festival, it will be in the memories of those who saw it – and those who made it.

Students involved:

Designed by Antti Hannula and Antti Rantamäki, assistance by Ransu Helenius, Aalto University

Partner: Stora Enso (donated plywood)

Arcade games 

Zuzanna Buchowska, Helena Sorca, Sannimari Honkanen, Jung Huh, Shreyasi Kar, Caleb Rugg, Bryant Hoban, Mikko Kolehmainen, Felix Bade, Izzan Bacharrudin, assistance by Matti Niinimäki, Aalto University.

Mural wall
Samar Zureik, Juliana Hyrri, Robert Lönnqvist, Tiia Lindström, Terhi Adler, Veera Krouglov, Aino Salonen, Iiris Halme.

Matias Ylikangas, Lukasz Geratowski, Anni Tolvanen, Anni Sairio, Veera Kortelainen, Oona Viskari, Joosung Kang. Assisted by Minna Aino, Aalto University.

Spatial design
Jenna Ahonen, Mervi Antila, Manuel Fonseca, Megan McGlynn, Miia Palmu

Anastasia Lobkovski, Terhi Kokkonen, Lauri-Matti Parppei, Hannu-Pekka Peltomaa, Aleksi Delikouras, Anna Äärelä, Jussi Lehtomäki

Textile workshop
Elisa Rauma, Mirva Paastela, Joni Mäkelä, Beriwan Ceylan, Susanna Nurmi, Elena Salminen

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