Civil Society Intangible Heritage

7 Most Endangered Sites in Europe: Helsinki-Malmi Airport

Helsinki-Malmi Airport in Finland is a rare surviving example of pre-World War II aviation architecture, built for the 1940 Olympic Games, which were scheduled to be held in Helsinki but which were eventually cancelled due to the war.

Airport hall

Airport hall

It is wonderful place to explore and experience. Looking at the small airplanes taking off and arriving at the airport brings you as close to the romantic idea of aviation as you can possible get.

Malmi Airport

Malmi Airport

Malmi Airport, complete with its original hangar, terminal and runways, is still in use with about 40,000 landings per year. The area has been declared a cultural environment of national significance by Finland’s National Board of Antiquities. Its open meadow has considerable biodiversity and makes the nature path encircling the site very popular among locals. Helsinki’s new General Plan however proposes to fill the airport with apartment blocks to be constructed in the early 2020s, while the state is to withdraw its operations from the airport by the end of 2016.

The popular restaurant

The popular restaurant

Now the airport is on the list of the 7 Most Endangered 2016, a programme initiated by the leading heritage organisation Europa Nostra together the European Investment Bank Institute to draw attention to the most endangered heritage sites in Europe. It was suggested for the list by Europa Nostra Finland, supported by the Friends of Malmi Airport (FoMA). The civil society organisations want to keep the historic airport, and eventually want to propose the site for the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Hangar from the 1940s with water-planes

Hangar (1936-1937) with water-planes

The airport and its surroundings can of course best be seen from the air, so I have to ignore my fear of flying and get into a 60 year old Cessna in windy weather to look at the runways from above. It is worth some anxiety to see this unique 75 year old airport the way it was meant to be. Flying from Helsinki back to Malmi, excitingly swinging in the wind like a kite, captures the true spirit of flying much more directly than any modern plane or airport ever could. It would be a true pity if it would be lost.

Cessna

Cessna

4 Comments

  1. Free guided tours are arranged in Finnish and English also. Contact info(at)malmiairport.fi

  2. Thanks for this article! There’s a small misprint in the hangar photo caption – it’s not from the 1940’s. It was built in 1936-1937 and is the oldest building of the airport (if the original runways and their extensive understructure from 1935-1936 are not considered “buildings”). The round terminal was built in 1937-1938.

    What makes the threat to Malmi Airport’s living international cultural environment truly incomprehensible is the fact that there’s endless unbuilt forest and fields everywhere around. There’s a very illustrative video showing this at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uu6Gjy-BvDI&feature=youtu.be (with English subtitles).

    • Thanks for the remark, caption corrected. Nice video that shows the area from above.

  3. …and, of course, the fact that Malmi is the only free-schedule city airport for light traffic in the capital region. The nearest comparable one with international point-of-entry services at free schedule is 150km away in Turku.

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