Baana is a purpose built path for cyclists and pedestrians that leads from Helsinki’s western harbour to the city centre. Baana is situated below street level and replaces the rail line that once connected the harbour with Finland’s national rail network.
To celebrate the UN International Year of Light, the city of Helsinki has chosen to present BAANA: Light in the Underworld Helsinki along this transit corridor from the 24th to 27th of September 2015 – one of the many worldwide events taking place on this Weekend of Light.
And though Baana isn’t actually underground, as the title seems to suggest, the light does illuminates the spaces beneath the bridges spanning the route.
Using energy efficient lighting, it also incorporates technology that responds to the presence of people on the path. This creates an evolving series of colours, projected patterns and reflections. The project is a collaboration between the Illuminating Engineering Society of Finland, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and Helsinki’s Public Works Department.
The results are surprisingly delightful. They offer new perspectives on what has become familiar – maybe even invisible – to those who take the path on a regular basis. The light vivifies the route’s peripheral features, namely the hollows, textures and vegetation, and elevates their status. My snapshots convey a sense of their visual impact.
The illumination also communicates a sense of nostalgia. For one, it recalls the appearance the Lauttasaari Water Tower about a decade ago, when the structure was bathed in a bluish-purple glow on a nightly basis.
The top of the Empire State Building forms another precedent. Its upper echelons were first drenched in brilliant tones back in 1976. This particular project aligns itself more with the work of Michael Hayden, who started producing sculptures that combined light, movement and architecture in the 1970s.
The captivating series of art works presented along Baana offers a very site specific blend of sounds, colours and spatial experiences. They show how even the most humdrum places can be enlivened. Moreover, I believe it has the power to distract more than a few of the most dedicated textestrians from their hand held gadgets. To my mind the project’s an astounding success.