NBA makes a strong statement for the protection of Malmi Airport

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The National Board of Antiquities is strongly in favor of protecting Malmi Airport based on the law on building heritage conservation. The NBA has sent a statement on the matter to the ELY Centre (Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment). The original statement (in Finnish) is here.

The protection application has been in process for two years

On 12 October 2015, the Friends of Malmi Airport filed an application at the Uusimaa Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY) for measures to be taken to protect the entirety of Helsinki-Malmi Airport based on the law on building heritage conservation 4.6.2010/498. The application covers the whole airport area with its buildings, the same area that is defined in the listing of Built Cultural Environments of National Significance (RKY 2009). The whole area and the historical buildings are owned by City of Helsinki.

Malmi Airport as a whole is a Built Cultural Environment of National Significance

The airport was included in the report “Built Cultural Environment. Culturo-historical Environments of National Significance” (1993) published by the NBA and the Ministry of the Environment. Malmi’s significance is related both to the individual airport buildings (especially the 1930’s airport) and the significance of the airport as a whole in the Finnish history of civil, military and hobby aviation.

In the update of the list (RKY 2009) the significance of Malmi was specified in more detail, and for clarity the designation explicitly encompassed the whole airport area.

It is obvious that based on the ground stabilization conditions, among other things, making the planned residential construction economically viable will require construction on a scale that will destroy the airport’s landscape.

Malmi Airport has been included in the international DOCOMOMO organization’s selection of monuments of Finnish modernism from the late 1920’s to the 1970’s.

The World Monuments Fund (WMF) has in 2004 and 2006 included Malmi Airport in its List of 100 Most Endangered Sites in the world.

Europa Nostra Finland has chosen Malmi Airport as Finland’s most endangered cultural heritage site in 2015 and proposed it to be included in the List of 7 Most Endangered Sites in Europe. In 2016, Malmi Airport was selected to this programme of Europa Nostra and the European Investment Bank Institute.

The people’s law initiative “Lex Malmi” was presented to the Finnish Parliament in February 2017. The initiative aims at keeping the 138-hectare airport area in aviation use. This would most probably mean expropriation of the airport from the City to the State or an exchange of lands to keep the airport operational. The processing of the initiative is ongoing.

The legal preconditions for protection are fulfilled

The law on building heritage conservation can be applied to areas with a zoning plan that have national significance, if the conservation and protection of the site cannot be ensured on the basis of the law on land use and construction and related statutes, or if there are special reasons for protection under this law due to the zoning plan situation. According to the NBA,

In the case of Malmi Airport, all these preconditions are fulfilled. It is a significant site not just on national level, but also internationally. The need for protection covers the interiors and their details in a manner described below. The uncompromising general and zoning plan work does not sufficiently account for Malmi Airport’s specific features. The question is primarily of preserving the airport’s area and paying adequate attention to it in planning.

The law can be applied to protect buildings, structures, groups of buildings or built areas with significance from the point of view of building history, architectural merits, construction techniques, special environmental values or the use or use-related events of the building.

The two central buildings of Malmi are significant from all these points of view, as is the airport area with the exclusion of the point of architectural merit.

Protection based on the building heritage law can also apply to a part of a building, the immovable interiors or other areas that have been built or planted.

All of these are found at Malmi Airport. It fulfills the law’s criteria on rarity, typicality, representativeness, authenticity and power of bearing historical witness and presenting layers of history in e.g. the following points:

  • The impressiveness of the airport is based on its high-quality aviation architecture in the European context. Malmi Airport is one of the earliest airports with the terminal and its wings, the hangar and the runways, crossing each other in a compass-rose-like manner, all composed and realized in a controlled manner as a complete design that has also survived.
  • The airport is the key site of our country’s aviation history. Its significance to our civil aviation is only rivalled by Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. With its original buildings and airport area Malmi Airport forms a complete entity. The buildings and airport area of Malmi Airport are a manifestation of Finland’s modernization and decades of general aviation tradition. The airport was the modernized Finland’s gateway to the rest of Europe
  • What’s almost unique about Malmi Airport is that its scope, the key buildings and structures have survived not only in their original form but also in their original use. In this respect Berlin-Tempelhof is probably the leading site, but there the area is no longer used for aviation. Malmi’s terminal building is architecturally an example of strict and pure functionalism.
  • The terminal building represents an exceptionally consistent realization of uncompromising high-quality aviation architecture. Functionalism is manifested in its spaces, surfaces and exterior and interior details.
  • The airport with its groundwork and the hangar with its structures have once been exceptionally demanding feats of construction technology and examples of high-quality know-how. The airport as a whole and its constituent parts have survived exceptionally well. Alterations and repairs have been conducted in the buildings and the runway area in stages. The alterations have served the continuity of operations or been related to the airport’s historical stages. The changes have been rather natural, and the architectural features of the terminal that have been lost are easy to bring back.

The key factor in the authenticity of the Airport is its continued aviation use in an complete environment that has well preserved the original situation. This has also been emphasized in the international evaluations of the airport. Malmi Airport also relates to the turning points of war and peace in 1940s Finland.

Allocation of protection

The boundary of the area to be protected must be defined as in the initiative, in accord with that of the Built Cultural Environment of National Significance. An exception can be made in the case of the area north of Tattariharjuntie up to the airport’s parking lot. Unlike the rest of the airport, the preservation of this area is most naturally taken care of in zoning plan work. The preservation of the pre-1950s buildings in the area must be secured, even though this area offers the possibility of additional construction that is in scale with the surroundings. The protection need in this area applies above all to the exterior appearance of the buildings.

Aviation use is the most natural solution for securing the international and national value of Malmi Airport, and is thus the correct basis for the protection decision.

The protection must ensure the maintenance of the airport area and the two key buildings from the founding stage, repairs taking into account their specific features, and suitable use of the buildings.

The ordinances must allow the needed room for considerations of usability and development of the airport and its actual area in a manner that makes continued aviation possible and does not endanger the protected whole.

The airport area’s open landscape must be kept unbuilt. The runways, taxiways and apron must also be preserved. Changes related to aviation use and safe operation in technical systems and surface materials are possible.

The processing of the protection application continues

The ELY Centre has sent requests for statements to some of the parties concerned. Among these are the owners and occupants of properties as well as neighbors. The request (in Finnish) is here.

The National Board of Antiquities’ complete statement (in Finnish):

NBA’s statement