1.1.2012 31.12.2012

Jubilee year on the Union Axis – from Observatory Hill to Kallio Church

Unioninkatu is the Festival Street of the Helsinki 200 Years as Capital jubilee year. Emperor Alexander I of Russia, who elevated Helsinki to the status of capital, arrived in Helsinki along this street on his 1819 visit to the city, and named it Unioninkatu, or Union Street.

imageThe Union Axis, on the other hand, refers to the street axis between Observatory Hill and Kallio Church, which includes Kopernikuksentie, Unioninkatu and Siltasaarenkatu. Together, these streets form the longest continuous street axis in the central city area of Helsinki, connecting the old working-class district of the city with the more bourgeois Helsinki.

The Union Axis is home to many of the city’s major historical buildings, event venues and notable institutions. The Empire-era city centre also houses many state, university and city council institutions. Meanwhile, Hakaniemi is closely linked to the history of the workers’ movement and the upper end of Siltasaarenmäki is home to Kallio Church, which is currently celebrating its first centenary. The street is also home to Helsinki Cathedral, the German Church and the Russian Orthodox Holy Trinity Church.

imageThe Union Axis also acts as a gateway to the city’s historic parks in Kaisaniemi and Kaivopuisto and the Esplanadi thoroughfare. Meanwhile, the old market halls in the Market Square and Hakaniemi Market are an ideal spot for some shopping or enjoying a fresh cup of coffee.

The jubilee year includes a busy programme of events and projects connected to the Union Axis. To mark the capital’s bicentenary, the City of Helsinki will commence a project to renovate the street’s cobbled surface and street lighting and to establish a new signage and information system to guide visitors.

Astronomy, art and events

imageOn Observatory Hill, a new Observatory, complete with a visitor centre, is due to open this autumn in a building designed by C.L Engel.

During the bicentenary jubilee year, the Union Axis will also turn into a street art gallery and the venue for a busy programme of events taking place both at the Senate Square and on street corners. The Union Axis, more specifically Siltasaarenkatu, is also the first location of Oona Tikkaoja’s movable sculpture Unelma (“Dream"). Modern Finnish art will be showcased on transformer boxes along the Union Axis from Unioninkatu to Siltasaarenkatu. In winter, the Union Axis will be illuminated by the Blue Line laser beam, connecting Observatory Hill and the Kallio Church tower.

Publications, exhibitions and short films

imageThe University of Helsinki, the Museum of Finnish Architecture and the City of Helsinki will release (in Finnish) a collection of articles entitled Union Axis – a Cross Section of the City, in which 18 researchers illuminate the street's history, architecture, topography, landmarks and unrealised building plans.

The City Planning Department’s Exhibition Centre Laituri will host an exhibition on the Union Axis in the autumn of 2012.

A partnership between the University of Helsinki and the Arcada University of Applied Sciences will produce a total of 21 short films on the history of the Union Axis in eight different languages.

The University of Helsinki’s Think Corner (Aleksanterinkatu 7) will host Union Street Day on 26 September. The event will include a thorough look at the jubilee year projects of Unioninkatu and showcase citizen’s memories of the street. 

The Union Street Axis – Paving the way for Helsinki’s past (PDF, 1,3 Mb)

Full Union Axis programme for the jubilee year