Finding Phenomena: Malmi Train Station

The railway station bridge between Ala-Malmi and Ylä-Malmi offers one of Helsinki’s most vibrant public spaces, a bustling passage filled with the commotion of daily life and an informal flea market which springs up each morning as locals place a variety of clothes, jewellery, kitchenware, books and almost anything else on the deep sills which line the gangway. 

It is these deep sills, a gift from the 1980’s architecture, that enable this bridge to be such a hive of activity. ~50cm deep and at waist height, the sills provide over 100 metres of exquisite, but entirely incidental, “tables” for the display of local wares. This architectural accident brings to mind the writings of Hermann Herzberger and his advocacy of spatial frameworks for informal activity; armatures for public life. 

This potentially staid public space has been approximated by the local population, for the local population. There is no tourism industry in Malmi. The flea market is a conversation between locals, a literal example of the kind of ‘give and take’ which helps to engender a sense of togetherness and community in an area.

In 2017, the western expansion of the Helsinki Metro (Länsimetro) opened to the public. Each metro station has been designed in deference to a different “design theme”, including ‘water and sea’ (Koivusaari Station) and ‘water, in the form of snow and ice’ (Lautasaari Station). Perhaps future expansions of the Helsinki Metro might learn from Malmi Station and aim to create incidental spaces, which give users a sense ownership, rather than focussing on abstract “design themes”. Franny Françoise