Helsinki la ruta del diseño
22 July, 2015
The moment you set foot in the airport you are surrounded by design. Suffice to look at the street furniture, a clear example of Finnish design. Their design philosophy is so consistent they have even created a design district. Confident of the value of their brand, in 2005 they created the Design District, founded by a group of entrepreneurs, which includes the Design Forum Finland, an organisation that has endeavoured to promote Finnish design for over 120 years. The area currently functions like a “mini-city” in the centre. It is made up of over 20 streets and some 200 establishments run by young entrepreneurs and local merchants who conceive of commerce as promoting Finnish design with great impetus and creativity.
They are all identified by a sign on the door. The Design District features quaint establishments, florists, restaurants, fashion stores, design and publicity agencies, photographic studios, art galleries, and such interior design spaces as the famous Artek, and even the Design Museum.
Beyond the DD circuit itself, one can’t fail to notice other significant Finnish design and architectural works. Here are some of the landmarks you shouldn’t miss:
The Kamppi Chapel (Chapel of Silence), in Narinkkatori Square, is a must-see. It is a refuge from the city bustle which was inaugurated in 2012, the year Helsinki was designated World Design Capital. It is built entirely of timber to resemble an igloo. No religious symbol features in its interior, and its maxim is peace and silence.
The older Church of Temppeliaukio, popularly known as the Church of the Rock, is visually stunning, resembling a UFO embedded in a rock, the only design of its kind in the world. Prominent between the roof and the rock is a thick glazed front that lets natural light into the interior. This is one of the most widely visited buildings in the city.
Another of Helsinki’s majestic constructions is its famous train station. This veritable gem of the Art Nouveau – which the Finns oddly call “National Finnish Romanticism” – was designed by the Finnish architect, Eliel Saarinen. Presided over by four huge sculptures, the exterior stands out as grandiose, while the interior is also admirable.
The Kallio District is acclaimed as one of the most hip districts on the planet. Indeed, it bears all the traits of this sub-culture, with its a-thousand-and-one Indie music nightspots, organic food, vinyls, brunch, food trucks, vintage, design, etc. One worth highlighting is Made in Kallio, a radical design store which doubles as a café and a studio belonging to a design collective. This space hosts events, including exhibitions and flea markets. Here, you’ll be anything but bored.
Helsinki’s design hub, where it all started, is undoubtedly the Arabia Centre, where you can find such brands as Iittala, Fiskars and Arabia, which account for a 90% presence in Finnish homes. Here, too, is one of the most prestigious design universities in Europe, the Alvar Aalto University of Art and Design. It can be reached by tram and is worth devoting a morning to. You can visit the factories and purchase the odd Finnish design article.
If you’re an unconditional fan of art nouveau, this is your ideal city, as Helsinki boasts one of the most prolific repertoires of this style in the world. Download the most emblematic routes, here.
In closing, to approach contemporary design, you should not pass up the chance to see the Kaisa House university library, a majestic building which breathes design throughout. It is Finland’s largest library and its architecture has been awarded several prizes.
I would take Vueling and turn up there right now. Helsinki is one of the most wonderful cities I have ever visited, with endless opportunities for outings and sightseeing. What’s more, it is near St Petersburg, opposite Tallinn and just a short jaunt away from Stockholm.
Text by Tensi Sánchez of actitudesmgz.com
Photos by Fernando Sanz
22 July, 2015