As soon as I stepped on Finnish soil, I immediately understood the huge role of design, not only in society but also from an environmental and urbanistic point of view.
It’s not a coincidence that nowadays Helsinki is internationally recognized as the capital of Design and every year people from all over the world come to Finland just for the Helsinki Design Week. During this week, you can attend workshops, exhibitions, lectures, Q&A with lecturers, learn a lot about design and everything that revolves around it, from the primitive idea to the concrete and final product. Industrial design, interior design, graphics. Fashion shows, installations throughout the city center, a gathering point for professionals and not: the Helsinki Design Week is even more than “just” this. In 2017, the biggest design festival in the Nordic countries took place from 07.09 to 17.09.
The official website is this and as you can see, there are plenty of things to do.
If I asked you to associate a name to Finnish design, I’m pretty sure that you’d say Alvar Aalto. This famous Finnish architect reshaped the concept of architecture and design in the XX century and he seems to have a strong influence still today. I started my HDW by visiting the Alvar Aalto Exhibition “Art and the Modern Form” at Ateneum, a branch of the Finnish National Gallery. Here you can learn Aalto’s mindset and approach to modernism in over 50 years, his Gesamtkunstwerk that we now define only “design” but that embraces different sectors such as industrial design, environmentalism, urban functionality, and aesthetic taste.
The concept of design is too wide to be described in a few words, but I’ll try to. In Finland, everything that is on a shelf (or even if it’s not on a shelf) has its own function, a design product must be functional. The company artek, founded by Aalto and his wife, holds this definition in the name itself: artek is art + technology. Take the Pamio chair as an example: it was designed so low to help tuberculosis patients breathe easier. Another example is given by the 3 Leg Stool 60, which -having three legs- allows them to be piled up easily, thus saving space.
But in Finland, even candies and cosmetics can be design. If you want a piece of Finland, you can visit this website: www.worldoftre.com
Here you will find brands such as Hakola, Avarte, Moiko, MOIMOI, Tingest, Niimar, and many others.
If you want to know more about design, then the best option would be to attend the exhibitions at Ateneum or to explore the Design district in the heart of Helsinki. If you want to admire Aalto’s buildings in Helsinki, then you can visit The Aalto House (Riihitie 20) and Studio Aalto (Tiilimäki 20). You can buy a combined ticket for the Studio Aalto and the Aalto House for 30€ instead of 36€ (adults). Students and seniors pay 15€ instead of 18€*.
If you want to dedicate an entire day to Aalto, then you should drive from Helsinki to his hometown, Jyväskylä, on the Finnish Lakeland. Here you can visit the museum dedicated to him and the Muuratsalo Experimental House.
Don’t miss the chance in 2018, the Helsinki Design Week is from 6th to 16th of September!
*Prices may vary. It’s better to buy the Helsinki Card if you’re planning to visit several museums.