Co-Constructed Narratives of the Grassroots in the City Narrating Hiedanranta


  • Dalia Milián Bernal Tampere University
  • Elina Alatalo Tampere University
  • Jeremy Allan Hawkins Strasbourg School of Architecture
  • Panu Lehtovuori Tampere University




Hiedanranta is a former industrial complex located on the shores of lake Näsijärvi in Tampere, the second largest city in Finland. Currently, the area is inhabited by diverse cultural actors that work on individual as well as collective projects and who have also appropriated the buildings and surrounding areas, physically transformed them and provided them with new uses, while unleashing other, often political, processes. It is the work of these actors on the territory that renders this site’s special, haptic and creative character. Notwithstanding, the area is currently undergoing a dramatic transformation. Due to a large urban development project, the material substrate of the site as well as its internal social dynamics are rapidly changing, already seeing some cultural groups being permanently displaced. It is within this context that the COST Action team in Tampere organized a workshop to gather, understand and retell the stories of different cultural actors working on the site by employing different participatory visual and narrative methods. 

In this contribution, we explore Hiedanranta through six co-constructed narratives. These narratives bring together visual material and poetic practices as well as long narrations of personal experience that shed light on the lives of these cultural actors as they unfold in and relate to Hiedanranta. By bringing these narratives to the fore, we aim to challenge objectivist and positivist forms of generating knowledge about urban places by taking narratives of personal experiences as legitimate sources of knowledge seriously, recognizing that knowledge is both situated and subjective; to deploy co-constructed narratives of a site as a form of subjective representation of a place that counters abstract representations of space; to illustrate the way in which the grassroots are also shaping plans, policies and spaces and therefore should find a place in theoretical planning discourses. Most importantly, through these narratives we hope to keep the stories of Hiedanranta alive before, like the old factory buildings, these are forever erased. 

Author Biographies

Dalia Milián Bernal, Tampere University

Dalia Milián Bernal – Co-leader WG3 – is a doctoral researcher and lecturer in the School of Architecture, Faculty of the Built Environment at Tampere University in Finland. Her background is in the field of architecture and her current research focuses on the temporary uses of vacant and abandoned urban spaces in the context of Latin America. Delving into online arenas, following several cases and applying different analytic methods of narrative inquiry, she aims to explain why temporary uses develop across Latin American cities and to unearth their deeper meaning. Currently, she teaches sociospatial aspects of sustainable architecture, critical urban theory and, since 2019, she coordinates the IFHP Urban Planning and Design Summer School in Finland. She is the co-founder of the collective-blog Interrogativa, a platform that discusses diverse urban processes through the perspective of women and their experience of urban space. 

Elina Alatalo, Tampere University

Elina Alatalo – WG4 – is an architect and doctoral researcher in Environmental Policy at Tampere University, Finland. Her recent research has concentrated on new forms of urban activism, getting vacant spaces back into use and developing sustainable urban neighbourhoods. She is specialized in creating experiments with citizens. Currently she teaches in and coordinates Climate University (climateuniversity.fi) in Tampere, which offers multidisciplinary courses for those who want to make the sustainability transition in society real. She is a co-founder of the Insurgent Spatial Practices collective (research.tuni.fi/insurgentspatialpractices), which explores the valuable knowledge that alternative cultures develop, for example by combining methods from art and research. 

Jeremy Allan Hawkins, Strasbourg School of Architecture

Jeremy Allan Hawkins – WG3 – is a poet and lecturer at the Strasbourg School of Architecture in France, where he is a member of the AMUP research laboratory and contributes to teaching and research on design narratives, architectural writing and poetics. He is a doctoral candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, studying situated writing practices and knowledge production in spatial design contexts. He is the author of the poetry chapbook A Clean Edge (BOAAT, 2017). His writing has been published widely in Europe and the United States and has been selected for inclusion in the Best New Poets anthology series, as well as the extended programme of the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennial. His research interests include creative writing as spatial practice, material poetics, practice-based research and knowledge production in urban design. 

Panu Lehtovuori, Tampere University

Panu Lehtovuori – WG4 – is a professor of Planning Theory at Tampere University, School of Architecture. Before the current position, he was a professor of Urban Studies at the Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn. Lehtovuori’s research interests focus on contemporary forms of public urban space, new urban design approaches and the resource efficiency of the built environment. Lehtovuori regularly partners with Livady Architects, one of Finland’s leading experts on heritage evaluation and conservation; SPIN Unit, a transnational research group combining art and science for urban studies and advanced data solutions; and Nordic Urbanism, a start-up in continued professional education and urban consulting. His recent publications include ‘Drivers of Global Urbanization: Exploring the Emerging Urban Society’, in the Routledge Handbook of Henri Lefebvre, the City and Urban Society (co-written with J. Tartia and D. Cerrone) and ‘Temporary Uses Producing Difference in Contemporary Urbanism’, in Transience and Permanence in Urban Development (co-written with S. Ruoppila). 


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How to Cite

Milián Bernal, D., Alatalo, E., Hawkins, J. A., & Lehtovuori, P. (2023). Tampere: Co-Constructed Narratives of the Grassroots in the City Narrating Hiedanranta. Writingplace, (8-9). https://doi.org/10.7480/writingplace.8-9.7257