The Kesanto (Fallow) of the Sopenkorpi area is an outdoor event space for cultural events, community art and other outdoor activities.
Sopenkorpi is the old industrial area in Lahti. The father of the Kesanto idea, Eetu Floor saw the area’s potential when he moved back to Lahti. Kesanto is located near the old industrial train track in the middle of Sopenkorpi. Before tidying up and renovation three years ago in 2017, the place was messy.
Eetu Floor and Max Hagelberg founded the Sopenkorpi Kesanto cultural centre in 2017. After it was tidied up with other volunteers, the centre opened in May 2017. The basic idea from the beginning was to respect the spirit of the area and have a place where anyone can organize an event free of charge. The area accommodates up to a couple of thousand people, so there is room for growth.
Kesanto activities has been expanding gradually every summer. The area has turned out to be a popular place for hosting music-related and other cultural events during the summertime. The underground music festival UGH took place for the 3rd time in 2019. Kesanto also hosts outdoor sports, urban farming and even outdoor gallery space called Galleria Sun.
The visitors in the area vary from people of different ages and families with children to even people with dogs. Everyone is welcome to visit. Kesanto is a proof that modern society needs this kind of collectivity, in which anyone can participate in their own way.
The city of Lahti has helped Kesanto since the beginning (area is a city’s property). Some local operators have lent tools or donated materials for building the area.
Kesanto has been set up by volunteers. It received €1,500 from the Finnish Music Foundation and in total €3,000 from the city of Lahti. The city granted the right to use the area for five years and assigned a contact person with whom Kesanto agreed on maintenance payment (e.g. waste management).
Evidence of success
Since the opening, Kesanto has hosted regularly different happenings and activities every summer. In season 2019, Kesanto hosted 26 different events and a regular club on summer Tuesdays. The biggest events had approx. 1350 visitors in all, and the most popular one about 500 guests. In December 2019, the founders of Kesanto Eetu Floor and Max Hagelberg were awarded the Apolikukka by the steering group of the Lahti architectural policy program. Kesanto was featured on national television in 2020.
The first challenge was to study how things are done and organized in similar activities. Participatory work like this without granted project funding naturally causes challenges to its coordination. Incoming funds from small-scale events do not cover the needs of the newly established project.
Potential for learning or transfer
Kesanto is a great example of the influence of active residents. It illustrates how neglected urban spaces can be used in a way that increases collectivity and well-being. Citizens can build things they want to experience without expecting a city to act. Besides, people commit more to take care of their environment once they have been creating it.
Kesanto's goals include the recreation and revitalization of the whole neighbourhood, and there are new plans for this. When citizens develop novel activities in underrated neighbourhoods, it raises the profile of the area and the image of the whole city and draws the attention of companies. Even if a city might be unable to fund activities, it can come up with other means of support, like providing equipment.
Kesanto has been invited to tell of its methods, e.g., to the town of Heinola. There are plans on how to establish similar synergistic areas elsewhere in Finland by utilizing the base and lessons, and by engaging other cities.