I love the West Metro in Espoo. The nearest metro station is about six kilometers from my home, but I still use the metro often by driving to the station by car or, in the summer, going with my electric wheelchair through the forest, which begins almost at my doorstep, to the metro station. From time to time, I think about how wonderful it is that this is possible in the second-largest city in Finland. For me, the metro is the most independent form of public transport. The new West Metro stations in Espoo are magnificent, spacious, and completely accessible. The roomy lifts have motion detectors and buttons that are activated automatically when you get near them, which makes using the lifts so much easier for me. The buttons are at a lower level than in older metro stations, so I can press them myself if I need to. The West Metro stations are much more than just places that allow easy mobility. After taking the Evenio Oy guided tour of the metro’s art and technology, I have seen the stations in a whole new light.
Kivenlahti - the terminal station of West Metro
Petra from Evenio is waiting at the Kivenlahti metro station. It is the western terminal station of the West Metro, but for us, it is the starting point of our 90-minute tour. There are a total of 13 stations on the West Metro section from Lauttasaari to Kivenlahti. Today, we will learn more about the five latest additions that were opened in December 2022. In addition to our guide Petra, six people are taking part in this Saturday afternoon tour. There is room for more, but the compact group seems pleasant. We go through practical matters before diving into the world of the metro. The first metro in the world was opened in London back in 1863. It was hugely popular, so other countries wanted their own metros too. The Helsinki metro, the world’s northernmost metro, was opened in 1982 and it received additional stations in 2017 when the first section of West Metro was opened.
We go down to the platform of the Kivenlahti station. It is magnificent! As a whole, the appearance of the station emanates cool freshness, but the light fixtures suspended at different levels bring warmth to the platform. They create a stylish sea of light and I fall in love with the Kivenlahti station at first sight. On the platform, we are greeted by Ylis and Alis, the somehow human-like “Wanderers” sculpted by Kalle Mustonen. It feels tempting to touch the sculptures, which is allowed. The marks left by various tools can be identified on their lively surface. Petra explains more about the art of the station and why this particular station has these features. After admiring the platform area for a while, it is time to get on board. We pick a coach marked with a bicycle as these cars have more room. I can get on easily with my electric wheelchair. All coaches have identical entrances. There is a difference in level between the platform and the coach in most stations and, for example, in the Matinkylä station, where we will not be traveling this time, there is a larger gap than in other stations, which may be challenging if you use aids with small wheels. It takes two minutes to travel to the next station, during which Petra has the time to explain a few technological facts about the metro.
From Espoonlahti to Soukka metro station
We get off at the Espoonlahti station. It is a totally unique station. The station is located at the Lippulaiva shopping centre, which is directly accessible by lift from the platform. I like Lippulaiva, but we will not go there this time. Petra shows us the details of the platform area that I would not have definitely paid attention to on my own. The design of the Espoonlahti station is inspired by the colors and lights of the nearby indoor swimming pool. It is said to undulate. The billowing of the light art installation of Hans Rosenström resembling waves appears from time to time on the ceiling of the platform. The soundscape of the installation occasionally played from the loudspeakers of the platform, is currently inaudible. The atmosphere of the Espoonlahti station is calming. It doesn’t feel as impressive as Kivenlahti to me, but as a whole, the stations of the West Metro already seem magnificent as a whole. We hop on board once again and travel for two minutes to Soukka.
The Soukka platform reminds me of Kivenlahti at first glance. There are lights in the ceiling as well, but they are not as impressive as in Kivenlahti. The Soukka station is the most consistent whole in terms of spatial arts and having a professional guide seems particularly helpful here. We take the lift up and exit the station. Petra stops us occasionally to draw our attention to the details and explain how the different spheres and constellations travel through the station. We arrive in the middle of the suburb of Soukka. The stylish metro station is a perfect fit for the suburb, however, and we gather in front of the fountain next to the entrance to hear interesting stories from Soukka and to see the station from the outside. After getting some fresh air and enjoying the September sun, we go to the second entrance of the station. If the weather is poor, this part of the tour can be skipped. Inside the station, we continue admiring the spatial details, touch the wall and see the vivid colours. I would never have done this without this tour. I really don’t feel like touching anything in most metro stations I have visited in Finland and abroad, but these new West Metro stations are clean and comfortable. The metro is here again and we travel to Kaitaa station in two minutes.
Kaitaa and Finnoo metro stations
The Kaitaa platform is yet again distinct from other stations. Here, the theme is taking root, and the green courtyards are characteristic of Kaitaa. The piece of graphic art on the wall of the platform area, resembling the branches of a tree, was made by Antti Tanttu. I could not immediately identify it as a pine forest, but this station too comes alive when Petra tells us more about it. We only visited Kaitaa briefly before getting on the metro for the last time as a group and traveled to the Finnoo station in two minutes.
Of the stations included in the tour, I am most familiar with the Finnoo station, but I can still find new things to observe. Similar to the Kaitaa station, the platform has a graphic design that illustrates the vicinity of nature and the sea. The work of art is titled Haavekuvia and it was designed by Leena Nio. We go up from the platform to the mezzanine of the station to see the longest escalator in Finland, which ascends in an impressive manner at the Meritie entrance. Two spacious lifts are next to the escalator. One of the lifts is under repair, however, so it takes us a little longer to go up in one lift. We end our tour outside where we can see the fenced-off entrance above us. The Finnoo area is under development and in the future a shopping center will be built here, which is why the closed entrance is already here. We thank Petra and go on our separate ways with the metro, which we all see in a completely new way now and, for my part, with more respect.
Evenio Oy arranges guided tours of metro stations primary on demand. Gather a group and experience something completely new! Evenio also offers a wide range of other tours of the Helsinki metropolitan area, some of which can also be arranged as accessible. I visited the accessible brunch cruise to Vallisaari, arranged by Evenio and JT-Line, in August. Evenio Oy’s Petra is a highly professional and friendly guide who knows how and wants to take individual special needs into account.
This tour was part of my cooperation with the Sustainable Growth for Tourism: Southern Finland - project. This autumn (2023), I tried out sites and services in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and Turku that have invested in accessibility to tell you more about them. The Sustainable Growth for Tourism project supports the recovery and competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises. The project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council and the Regional Council of Southwest Finland as part of the measures carried out in 2021–2023 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. -Sanna Kalmari
Hero Image: Sanna Kalmari