Northern highlights - design capital Helsinki
Not London, not LA, and not Paris either: No, the honorary title of World Design Capital belongs to Helsinki - at least in 2012. The Finnish capital’s creative minds have clearly earned the distinction, as a tour of Helsinki’s Design District reveals
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Living & sightseeing in Helsinki’s design district
Helsinki Design District:
To see everything here, you need plenty of time but at least Helsinki’s cool Design District is relatively compact, occupying just 25 streets. The tour, which has an impressive 190 stops, allows design fans to explore studios, galleries, shops and showrooms at the heart of the city, where even the hotels and restaurants are carefully styled. The Design District, as its creators are keen to point out, isn’t so much a geographically defined area as a state of mind.
_district (English and Finnish)
Hotel Klaus K:
The Klaus K makes a great base camp for expeditions into Helsinki’s Design District. The architects and interior designers of what claims to be the first Finnish design hotel looked to Kalevala, the country’s national epic, for inspiration. The interior of the Klaus K’s two art suites also bears the signatures of two of Finland’s foremost artists. Tasty tip: The cooks at the hotel’s two restaurants show an equal love of and attention to detail…
Klaus K: Bulevardi 2-4, Tel.: +358/20 770 4700, www.klauskhotel.com (English and Finnish)
The national Designmuseo’s permanent exhibition takes visitors through the history of Finnish design, while more specialist topics are showcased in changing exhibitions. Some shows are dedicated to the works of individual designers. Since the museum’s collection was first established in 1873, it has grown to encompass 75 000 objects, as well as 100 000 illustrations, 40 000 drawings and a register of some 1000 designers. The museum is also much frequented by scientists studying Finnish design.
Designmuseo: Korkeavuorenkatu 23, Tel.: +358-9/622 05 40. Opening times: Jun-Aug daily 11am-6pm, Sep-May Tue 11am–8pm, Wed-Sun 11am-6pm. Admission: €3-8. www.designmuseum.fi (English and Finnish)
Shopping & lingering with the focus on art & design
Design Forum Finland:
From Finland out into the big, wide world: The Design Forum Finland has done much to acquaint an international public with a host of works by Finnish designers. The dedicated Forum team stages exhibitions, compiles yearbooks, organizes competitions - and runs a shop in the Design District, where it sells products by some 200 designers. The merchandise ranges from classic articles to the more offbeat objects of finger-on-the-pulse creative minds. At the adjoining café, patrons can peruse a selection of the latest design mags while sampling some seriously delicious cake.
Design Forum, exhibitions and shop: Erottajankatu 7, Tel.: +358-9/6220 8130. Opening times: Mon-Fri 10am-7pm, Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 12 noon to 5pm. Admission free. www.designforum.fi (English and Finnish)
When Artek first opened in 1935, it mainly sold furniture designed by two of its cofounders, the architect and designer couple Alvar Aalte, one of the “fathers of modern art,” and his wife, Aino. It still sells classic Aaltos today, but also stocks the works of other famous Finnish and international designers. Artek’s flagship store is located in the Design District.
Artek Flagshipstore: Eteläesplanadi 18, +358-9/6132 5277, Opening times: Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-4pm. www.artek.fi (English and Finnish).
Design, according to the classic definition in which form follows function, should always have a purpose. Art, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with functionality - but still has its place in the Design District. Several galleries devote their space largely to the works of contemporary, mostly Finnish, artists. At the changing arts and craft exhibitions to be viewed at Galleria Norsu, the dividing lines between both disciplines blur.
Galleria Norsu: Kaisaniemenkatu 9, Tel.: +358-9/2316 3250. Opening times: Tue, Thu, Fri 11am-5pm, Wed 11am-7pm, Sat 12noon to 4pm. www.norsu.info (English and Finnish)
Pictures: Timo Junttila, Designmuseo, Kai Kuusito, Jouko Lehtola, Corbis, PR