International Cultural Centre Caisa was established in 1996, inspired by a similar international meeting place previously established in Turku. The centre’s establishment was preceded by extensive discussion on the new needs and challenges resulting from increasing immigration. Helsinki City Council decided on the establishment of an ‘international meeting place’ in 1995, and once suitable facilities were found, Caisa opened its doors on 26 March 1996.
Caisa got its name as a result of a naming competition. The name is a reference to the centre’s original location at Kaisaniemenkatu 6 B and the words "Casa International" (international house or home).
The centre’s first years of operation were a time of intense development. Caisa’s aim was to support the integration of new ethnic and cultural minorities into Finnish society while still preserving their own identity, culture and language. During this time, Caisa developed many new working methods centring around immigration and the promotion of diversity. In doing so, Caisa served as a pioneer and incubator, the working methods of which also spread to Helsinki’s other administrative branches and other cities.
Initially, Caisa was a joint venture between the City’s Social Services Department and Cultural Office, until the Social Services Department withdrew from the project. Under the Helsinki Cultural Office, Caisa’s operations began to increasingly emphasise different forms of culture, while the development of immigrant integration operations continued under other City agencies.
In 2003, Caisa moved to new, more spacious facilities at Kaisaniemenkatu 17 C. In the same year, Caisa also established an online databank. Named InfoFinland, its development continued at Caisa until 2011, when it was transferred to the City of Helsinki Executive Office. Nowadays the InfoFinland service operates in several Finnish cities. In 2008, Caisa and InfoFinland were awarded the State Award for Public Information and the City of Helsinki Diversity Award.
In 2018, Cultural Centre Caisa moved from Kaisaniemi to Kallio into the facilities of Leipätehdas in the inner courtyard of the so-called Elanto block. The new Caisa features a 120-seat auditorium, a 180-seat performance hall, meeting rooms and gallery facilities.
The directors of Caisa have included:
Tuula Leino 1996-2001
Tuula Meres-Wuori 2001-2003
Johanna Maula 2002-2011
Ahmed Akar 20.8.2007-31.12-2008, 17.5.-31.7.2010
Paiju Tyrväinen 1/2012-8/2012
Leena Pellilä 9/2012-12/2013
Tomi Purovaara 1/2014-7/2016
Cátia Suomalainen Pedrosa 8/2016-