2004 and 2006 World Monuments Watch
Finland’s Helsinki-Malmi Airport was built in 1936 as the capital’s first international airport. It is a rare surviving example of an architecturally significant airport in the 1930s Modernist style, and it retains many of its original details. Upon completion in 1938, the ultra-modern aerodrome was the second in Europe to have fully paved runways. After playing a key role in the air defense of Helsinki during World War II, the airport found a new purpose as a general aviation aerodrome. Today the Malmi Airport is a cherished part of the locality’s identity and is valued as the last large open space in Helsinki. It remains the second-busiest airport in Finland while still evoking the pioneering era of commercial aviation. Home to several pilot schools and aviation clubs, the airport is a popular destination for hobbyists and is used as a venue for public events such as concerts and motor sports. Even after the complex was declared a landmark, local authorities and businesses continued to express interest in demolishing portions of the site to make way for new housing. The decision to use the airport area for residential purposes, based on an agreement between the state government and the municipality, prompted the airport’s placement on the World Monuments Watch in 2004 and 2006.
Since the Watch
As a result of local efforts and inclusion on the Watch, the controversy over the airport’s protection received substantial coverage in the press. The original landmark designation included only the terminal, so it was expanded to include the entire airport in 2008. This protected the runways and the site’s overall character and scale. In June 2010 it was announced that a decision about the future use of the airport would be postponed indefinitely. In March 2014 the Finnish government again proposed that the Helsinki-Malmi Airport be closed. In spite of strong opposition, including a protest outside Parliament and a petition that was signed by 68,000 people, in October 2014 it was decided that the airport would close by 2016 in order to make way for housing. However, the airport has continued to operate since then. The Helsinki City Museum recently proposed that the runways be preserved as green space with housing constructed along the sides, and the site was included in Europa Nostra’s 2016 “7 Most Endangered” program.