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by Eelis Ilvessalo

What is Olohuone?

Olohuone (“living room”) is a unique almost 600 square meters space located in the shopping center of REDI in Kalasatama. This space is decorated like a living room and anyone from children to elderly can use Olohuone for multiple purposes.

Photo: Kalasataman vapaakaupunki

Olohuone opened its doors in 2018 and behind it is a place called Kalasataman Vapaakaupunki (Free City of Kalasatama). They describe their action in the following words: “In recent years, we have seen a lot of temporary activities in Kalasatama, like Container Square, urban culture, graffiti, skating, Sompasauna and various events. We want to preserve the spirit of this Kalasatama, which has brought the much needed freedom to the city center. We want to create space for self-reliance, collaboration, art, culture, and people. Try, what we can achieve together.” (

I had a great opportunity to interview Jaakko Blomberg the Founder of Kalasataman Vapaakaupunki.  Jaakko tells us more about Olohuone and shares some of his thoughts of this journey.

Urban oasis

“In 2018 Redi approached me and wanted to do collaboration in Kalasatamas surroundings. I have to say that first I was a little sceptical. Shopping malls are mostly known for their commercial values and consumption. In my projects I stand up for little different values and I threw back an answer that actually represented something totally opposite.” – Jaakko, founder of Kalasataman Vapaakaupunki

In summer 2018 two months long multicultural event took place in Suvilahti, which is a former industrial area close by to Redi. This event was called Kalasataman Vapaakaupunki. The event’s principle was that people make it and decide how it’s going to be. That meant anyone can take part for free and create the content! The event organization just supported by providing space and some technical solutions but everything else was created together voluntarily from the scratch. The result could be described as “urban oasis” – a place in the central location dedicated for cultural activities and hanging around with people. The event was a huge success. Redi noticed the hype and wanted to keep collaboration.

Photo: Kalasataman vapaakaupunki
Transition into Redi

“They offered us this huge little impractical space in the mall that they had problems renting out. We took the chance and decided to try transferring this very same concept and attitude of the event inside the mall.” – Jaakko

Olohuone was built very quickly from recycled materials and from donated furniture. Again the idea of non-commercial and communal space was in the center. Visiting would be free, anyone could participate and create the content. Spaces were separated into different sections such as a playground for children and more quiet space for reading and working.

Activities and events would still be carried out voluntarily. “It’s always a surprise what activities and events take place,” Jaakko smiles. “Lately there have been activities such as different workshops, hobby crafts, yoga classes and noise music gigs on weekends. The space is also working as an art gallery and there’s always one exhibition going on.”

Photo: Kalasataman vapaakaupunki
Future of Olohuone

Olohuone has existed now for over two years. It’s popularity clearly proves that there’s demand for places like this. According to Jaakko feedback has been positive and the concept of making one communal space open for everyone has been successful. “We’ve been successful in making the space open for everyone. That means we have a large variety of  people using Olohuone. Now in the past year even the youngsters have found the place. That’s kind of a trophy since this group can’t be fooled with tricks to come by voluntarily“, Jaakko smiles again.

Consumption has been in transformation in recent years. Way more are shopped online and even some changes in consumers’ values and attitudes can be noticed. One consequence is that traditional shopping malls are struggling. That means  they need to stand out from other malls in some ways to attract visitors. These days many people see malls as places to meet friends and grab a cup of coffee. Olohuone is a perfect example of that. Redi knows that too and a new contract with Olohuone has been made for 2021.

Things can be done differently

At the end of the interview we talk about sustainability. It’s cultural and societal dimensions are often paid less attention but those shouldn’t be underestimated. Communality and self expression are after all basic human needs. These days people are more aware of these factors and they are willing to put effort to change things in societies and in the world.

“Our main motive for this project is to show people that things can be done differently. We can provide a platform for people to create and express themselves, even without costs if there is a will.” – Jaakko

These days we are living in a world where socializing happens more often via smartphones and time for a break seems harder to find. Maybe that’s why paying quick attention to art galleries or taking part in alternative music gigs is exactly what we need. Even if that would be inside a shopping mall.


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