Katja Lindroos and Ramon Maronier
We have a very strong connection and active relationship with Helsinki
"Helsinki is a relatively young urban environment with a lot of potential. There is space for the imagination", says Ramon Maronier.
When Ramon Maronier moved to Helsinki from the Netherlands as a flamenco musician in the mid-1990s, he encountered a lively community of musicians. Through music, he also met his partner, Katja Lindroos, who was dancing flamenco at the time.
"Flamenco is a very community-centred art form. It also represents what we still do nowadays: we work in communities where everyone is interdependent", Maronier says.
The couple manages Urban Practice, a consulting and production company with a focus on urban change. The duo has also founded the Nordic CityMaking Week, whose first host cities are Helsinki and Vantaa.
"We have a very strong connection and active relationship with Helsinki”, Lindroos and Maronier say. Helsinki is the city where the couple met, and also where they work and the city they picked as their hometown.
Lindroos was born in Helsinki but grew up in Espoo. She returned to the capital in her twenties and worked as a journalist with a focus on urban culture, economy and creative industries.
"Helsinki has fresh energy. Diversity is born at the street level”, Lindroos says.
"We want to bring people together"
The couple developed their interest in urbanity almost two decades ago when they lived in Puotila. They started to research especially post-war suburbs and worked together on ‘Tehtävä lähiössä’ (Mission: Suburbia), a tv series for the national broadcaster Yle.
According to Lindroos and Maronier, Helsinki has undergone a rapid transformation since the late 90s.
"When I first arrived here, I noticed that there are many strong communities. They were however often functioning behind closed doors. Now this is changing”, Maronier says.
One of the couple’s community-driven projects is Lähiöfest, an event exploring the suburbs which the duo has organised in different cities since 2015.
“The idea has been to bring people together. Lähiöfest is a tool to promote interaction between cities, companies, associations, and residents – different parties who normally might not meet.”
Lindroos and Maronier have also compiled a phenomenon-based learning programme for teaching urbanism. Kaupunkioppi – City Learning takes professionals from different fields into schools to encourage children to examine their nearby surroundings. “If we want to solve big challenges, we need to start locally.”
Age: Katja 50 and Ramon 52
Live in: Lauttasaari
Profession: Entrepreneurs. The couple owns the consulting and production company Urban Practice. For MyHelsinki, Ramon photographs and Katja writes about different neighbourhoods in Helsinki.
What you didn’t know about us: Ramon is a magician who is especially fond of card tricks in combination with mentalism. Katja is an avid football fan. She supports the British team Wolverhampton Wanderers FC.
Ramon: Currently an excellent example of a fairly young, energetic entrepreneurial community. Great food and services. An important addition to a dynamic East Helsinki. The vintage shopping centre has also architectural value.
Katja: In Helsinki we can enjoy exquisite everyday architecture. Fewer palaces for kings, more palaces for citizens. One of my favourites is the Töölö library from the 1950s, designed by architect Aarne Ervi. I spent a lot of time there while writing my book MOMO (short for modest and modern) about 50s, 60s and 70s dwellings and living environments.
Ramon: I performed in an outdoor concert at the opening of the contemporary art museum Kiasma in 1998. The change that was kicked off in the late 1990s in downtown Helsinki has been wild: after Kiasma the Helsinki Music Centre, the Amos Rex museum, the central library Oodi… Such huge changes in the city centre would not be possible in many other major cities.
Katja: I moved to Kallio’s Torkkelinmäki as a student. The Avikainen bakery was my nearest place for bread. I belong to the lucky ones who were served by Elvi Avikainen herself. I don’t even want to think about how many of Avikainen’s pig-shaped donuts I have eaten over the years.
Ramon: When I first arrived in Helsinki, I ate my first dish of Baltic herring with mashed potatoes at Wellamo. Great home-style food that made me feel at home.
Katja & Ramon: One of the finest things about Helsinki is the vicinity of the sea. The bays here are so peaceful, at least compared to the North Sea (Ramon was born in The Hague). There is a route we enjoy nowadays that takes from Lauttasaari to Munkkiniemi through the bridges. Along the way, we pass through Kuusisaari which has the Didrichsen art museum and through Lehtisaari with the shopping centre where you can find excellent coffee and tea at the Maja Coffee Roastery. When we lived in Puotila, our favourite route was from Marjaniemi to Tammisalo.