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Planning for a new image in a mill town

Authors: Jarmo Kortelainen*, University Of Eastern Finland, Moritz Albrecht, University of Eastern Finland
Topics: Planning Geography, Economic Geography, Rural Geography
Keywords: Planning, local image, place branding, assemblage, bioeconomy, mill town, Finland
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


We present a case study on how planning and architecture takes part in image-building and place-making efforts in Äänekoski, a small industrial town in Finland. We deploy assemblage concept and study local place as a combination of material and expressive properties, forces of (de-)territorialization, acts of (de-/re-)coding and relations of exteriority. First, we show how Metsä Group corporation builds its new brand as a bioeconomy forerunner with help of a new huge pulp mill and so-called bio-production ecosystem in Äänekoski. Pro Nemus visitor center is an important part of the new complex combining wood architecture, art and virtual media. It is an expressive showcase for the company’s entire operations from forests to markets. Because it attracts wide range of stakeholders and is a multiple international prizewinner, the visitor center makes an important contribution to the image of the town. Second, the local government has based its image building on the bioeconomy investments and aims to recode the declining industrial town as an attractive and growing bioeconomy center. Place branding includes extensive investments in built environment, and master plans have been made to renew townscape and construct new neighborhoods. We analyze how the two key actors carry out bioeconomy-based recoding and how components of place conform to the image-building ‘script’. In spite of support of the national ‘bioconomy hype’, several material, expressive and de-territorializing elements (e.g. declining population, unemployment, environmental problems, ‘bioeconomy criticism’) work against this growth-oriented recoding. We also draw critical conclusions on both the towns’ and company’s image-building attempts.

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