9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN05 Sociology of Consumption

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Luxury and Affluence Building II, C5.02

"What are we to do with new affluence?" The making of Tapiola garden city in the postwar Finland

The proposed presentation elaborates the various ways the standard of proper consumption and good life was defined when "the first internationally known garden city Tapiola" nearby Helsinki was developed some 50 years ago. Today the Tapiola consisting of 20.000 inhabitants is a rare persistence of Ebenezer Howard's original term "garden city". When Tapiola's planning began there was a great eagerness to copy model that had proven good elsewhere: As we finally catch up with the West, we asked ourselves: What are we to do with new affluence? We can't eat more. There is a limit to the automobiles and gadgets we really need? So I started to persuade my countrymen that we should build a suitable and beautiful environment for everyone. (von Hertzen in von Eckardt, 1967, 351). Tapiola's construction was modeled especially on examples from Sweden (housing design, collective spaces, electrical and heating systems), Denmark (garden design, landscaping), Great Britain (new suburbs along the garden city ideology, new town movement), and the United States (roads for light traffic, schooling system based on youth activity). Multidisciplinary planning teams for Tapiola were the first in Finland to include sociologists and home economists. A general organic model was used to integrate various professions. Ambiguous concepts such as "neighborhood units, biological model and dormitory suburb" were repeated by the leaders of the movement. It was especially Lewis Mumford whose texts emphasizing demises of passive lifestyle got introduced to the developers of the city. No surprise, it was young people who became objects of this discourse. The presentation reflects the views of the Scandinavian institutional theorists who emphasize that in order for an idea to travel across an organizational field it must be separated from its institutional surroundings and translated into an object such as a text, a picture, or a prototype. Indeed, the number of films, books and newspaper articles, the data of this study, was quite notable in Tapiola?s case. Another theoretical source this presentation is based on is governmentality discourse suggesting that ?gardening? autonomous actors is worth studying.