Say Helsinki and you think of the Suomenlinna, cold, Father Christmas, the Cathedral of the Dormition and the sauna. And so it is, but not only that. In the streets of the Finnish capital, design is in the air. A gentle aroma, not overpowering and almost hidden. Indeed, on many occasions, the art is not within easy reach, it has to be ferreted out, as in the case of Leena Kouhia’s workshop, an actual basement on the edges of the Design District where ceramics are produced as they were long ago. What you find here, though, will surprise you.
From 12 to 17 September, Habitare is being staged, the furnishings trade fair and the jewel in the crown of Helsinki Design Week (7 – 17 September), an opportunity to discover the city and its affinity with the sector. Four days – the length of time of the press tour organised by Business Finland in which IFDM took part – related through the highlights we experienced.
The first taste of the city was enjoyed at the Lonna Island Restaurant, located on the island of the same name, which can be reached in a little craft that sails directly from the square that houses the market. Here, the first meeting with the leading designers and curators of the week. The day of the inauguration is a must for a visit to Habitare in the Messukeskus trade fair centre: the expectations were not betrayed. Because Finland can easily be recognised in all areas and the exhibitions, the values of authenticity and veracity expressed in the theme Roots are experienced through the products, mostly in wood, and the colours. An interview with Laura Sarvilinna, creative director of Habitare Pro and it’s already time for the Design Week Awards in the very beautiful Clarion Hotel, where a series of prominent Finnish designers and others stand out.
The following morning, a journey into the future at the Emma -Espoo Museum of Modern Art, where the House of Times to Come is being staged: a proper circular boat. The exhibition space of five thousand square metres makes Emma the largest museum in Finland.
There’s also time for a walk in the aforementioned Design District. The variety and craftsmanship of the proposals are striking: from the little shop of Antrei Hartikainen, winner of the best young designer of 2018 award thanks to his works, which combine traditional carpentry techniques with modern designs, to the jewels and leather products of Laakso & Snellman and onto the studio of interior products of Harri Koskinen.
Not to be missed is the new Amos Rex, inaugurated last August: a totally dark exhibition hall of two thousand square metres located under Lasipalatsi Square. The hall is illuminated by projections, including interactive. It is possible to draw and colour with pastels various animals and then pass the sheet under a scanner: the little animals come to life on the walls and floor of the museum.
In late afternoon, it is the turn of the showroom Lifestyle Finland, immersed in the Finnish nature and far from the city traffic.
Last but not least, an appointment at the fabulous Ultima restaurant where the best Finnish chefs, Henri Alén and Tommi Tuominen, combine Finnish food technology, the world class design of Ateljé Sotamaa, circular economy and, above all, their ability to prepare delicious food in a sustainable way.
The last day begins in total wellbeing with a visit to the Loyly Finnish sauna, located on the seashore inside a splendid pyramidal building made completely of wood. We cannot deny it: going from 80° heat to the 8° cold of the Baltic sea should be experienced at least once in life.
The tour ends at the Helsinki Design Museum, which houses the exhibition of Timo Sarpaneva, an artist famous for his works in glass. Here, there’s something of an Italian atmosphere due to the very strong inspiration of Murano.
All in all, Helsinki pleases every taste and keeps its promises.