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Laura Uimonen

University Instructor, Postdoctoral researcher urban planning

Top achievements

Arkkitehdin luontotieto : luonnon monimuotoisuus kaupunkisuunnittelussa, Uimonen, Laura (2020) SKR Finnish Cultural Foundation

Doctoral thesis 2010. Aalto University. Department of Art
Taidetta suunnitteluun : taidehankkeet ja taidetoiveet suomalaisessa kaupunkisuunnittelussa
(Art into planning: art based projects and hopes for art in Finnishurban planning)


There have been calls to incorporate art and urban planning for decades. The desires of Finnish artists, architects, public officials and politicians, presented in seminars and articles, have aligned with international dialogue, which has expressed an aim to create a good environment. In particular, there have been expectations of fruitful cooperation between artists and planners, the renewal of cities, increasing the appeal of architecture and public works of art and thus creating employment opportunities for artists. These expectations have been noted in legislation and cultural policies in Finland.

In seminar presentations in the early years of this millennium, I pondered what the collaboration of art and urban planning referred to. I became particularly interested in pathways the artist has been demanded to join urban planning, and whether these demands have been met. I asked
variety in art-genders and planning paradigms have been involved in the cooperation of artists and urban planners.

Artists have been involved in projects for single buildings, but rarely in holistic urban planning process. Art-related wishes have been realized in many projects where urban planners and art museum officials have invited artists to join urban planning. The artist joins a group of several actors: planners from various public institutions and companies, officials from public art administration, and invited experts. The present study examines this form of cooperation. I will approach the topic through interviews with people involved in art projects. Some interviewees were involved in an environmental art project in Turku and in the landscape art gallery project “MaisemaGalleria” in the Northern Savo region, which are presented as case studies in this dissertation. Other interviewees were involved in environmental art competitions and producing public works of art for an urban environment in Helsinki. Based on the interviews, I will describe the practices in Finnish art projects, and examine them in the light of articles and studies from Finland and overseas.

The structure and conclusions of this study are based on several thought models and related practices which coexist in the field of urban planning. They affect the expectations set for the cooperation of the artist and other actors as well as the forms in which these expectations can be realized.

The physical design model of architecture is still prevalent in the expectations that the artist’s task is to both continue and renew the traditions of sculpture in an urban environment. This tradition involves hopes for the ability of the designer and the artists to create elegant, impressive public spaces. Whereas in the history of the cityscape kings and the church sought to display their power, today the desire is to enhance commercial appeal using art.

Secondly, I will deal with cooperation in the field of art between public institutions. In this case, an important purpose of urban planning is the control of space to express the rationality of public administration. Both art administration and urban planning administration are hierarchical systems of sector government. Officials decide whether an active interspace can be created between the sectors to implement wishes concerning the arts. Administrative bodies have used competitions, the percentage for art –principles and various art programmes to produce cooperation in the art field.

Thirdly, I will examine the process guided by the structures of urban planning and legislation concerning the processes of art projects. The initiator of an art project often determines which organization will host the cooperation and what kind of process is ultimately used. Coordinating the cooperation of various actors requires skills in urban planning and urban construction as well as knowledge of the practices of art projects.

The fourth thought model of urban planning is based on mutual competition of cities, and the market-oriented cooperation between public administrations and the private sector. Project activities are governed by the pursuit of financial gains, and art is most often synonymous with an artistic image that appeals to tourists, residents and businesses. Municipalities increasingly engage in urban planning in the form of projects in which zoning, and construction are done simultaneously. In these projects, it is common that the municipal administration delegates the planning tasks to consultants, and public officials become clients. The artist becomes a consultant offering services to municipal administration, contractors or other consultants. Companies can include the artist in their consulting team more easily than public administration can, but the artist is expected to share the financial risks of art cooperation. Choosing the artist as a member of the consulting team from the beginning of the project gives him or her new to influence the planning of the project at an early stage.

The fifth thought model of communicative and interactive planning emphasizes the participation of residents and other actors in urban planning. In connection with this model, I will deal with community art and the role of the artist as a catalyst of dialogue. Dialogue and involvement has become a part of planning and a crucial part of many new forms of art, which changes and adds new expectations concerning the cooperation of art and planning, given that the concept of a work of art has expanded to include processes and interaction between various communities. At the same time, the group of people involved in art cooperation expands beyond experts and officials.

These models define the interspace of expertise between the actors involved in these processes. The present study makes this interspace visible because only a fraction of artists and planners are familiar with the practices of art projects in the public realm. Involving the artist in urban planning has most often been a special arrangement in Finland, despite the percentage for art -principle, the tradition of art competitions, and the preparation of art programmes. Expertise comes about in work that involves knowledge of both environmental and art administration. It requires knowledge of the thought models of urban planning, the practices of the art world as well and creative problem-solving between different operative cultures. Even single experts are vital for the implementation of art expectations in urban planning.

This study is particularly aimed at officials who present and implement wishes concerning art, artists, urban planners, contractors and those who make decisions concerning public spaces.