A Cultural and Literary History


Neil Kent

ISBN : 978-190-2669-75-5

History Cities of the Imagination Other Distributed Titles

September 2004

266 pages, 5.25″ x 8″

For sale in Hong Kong SAR and Macao SAR only

  • HK$175.00

Helsinki is one of the world’s most northerly capitals, but it is by no means a city frozen in Arctic wastes. Situated along the northern shore of the Gulf of Finland, magnificent lakes and forests reach into Helsinki’s urban heart, a rare event in today’s world of suburban sprawl. The Finnish capital offers a spectacular display of architecture and design: from the neoclassical magnificence imposed by a Russian Czar to the modernist chic of Nordic functionalism.

Neil Kent explores the history and culture of the “Daughter of the Baltic”, a small fishing village that became a powerhouse of design and technology. Tracing its dramatic past of conflict and conflagration, he explores the evolution of a national, and urban, identity through architecture, art and writing. Through such differing cultural phenomena as saunas, railway stations and tango, he explains why Helsinki is a distinctive mix of tradition and innovation.

CITY OF ARCHITECTS AND DESIGNERS: Engel, Czar Alexander I and the creation of an imperial metropolis; Alvar Aalto and the birth of the modern.

CITY OF THE ARTS: Sibelius, the national composer; conductors and performers; art galleries and installations; National Romanticism and the Nordic aesthetic.

CITY OF HOSPITALITY: Art Nouveau hotels and cafés; sauna culture; famous visitors and refugees: Lenin and Hitler; multicultural Helsinki and migration.

NEIL KENT studied at the University of Cambridge, where he is Senior Associate at the Scott Polar Research Institute. He has taught Nordic culture at the University of Helsinki and written extensively on Baltic social and cultural history.

“The book covers the expected topics . . . . But it also has tales of the unexpected, drawing the reader’s attention to subjects ignored by most mainstream books” —Horisontti