Arctic flowering in Finland
In its ninth year, Helsinki’s Design Week is a showcase for some of the world’s most exciting and innovative concepts in a country crazy about design
Mira Koymari in her Dream Space made of newspapers
Maarit Miettinen with the chair designed by her father in 1968 which she has put back into production
Marimekko updates the colourways of its poppy pattern continuously
Aino and Alvar Aalto
Designers Elina and Klaus Aaltovvv
A tree grows in the tower at one end of the long, stainless steel dining table and, at the other, dangling in a turret are lamps whose shades were woven in Colombia. By the light of swaying candle flames and the vibrant basketry of South American lights, Kari Korkman, the founder and director of Design Week in Helsinki tells us how he ended up operating from this majestic brick customs house.
As with many glorious buildings, no one wanted it, in this case because it was neglected and had no heating. And so he filled it with design pieces, from both budding creators and established brands. “We just moved in,” he says, “without doing a thing.”
“We did clean up some pigeon poo,” admits a colleague.
“But I think there is still some on the top floor,” Korkman says with a grin. Design Week, which takes place in venues across the city every autumn, will be 10 years old next year.
One exhibit in the authentic, industrial Old Customs House – in the National Romantic style – is a dining table by Ikea with curtains around it so children can play beneath. The design is a result of consultation with families. So when children ask: “Can I get down now?” they could actually mean down under the table.
“Would you like to go to hospital?” asks Toivanen, provocatively but not unkindly. “Er, no.”
“Would you want to go to hospital if your child was there?” Good point: if people we love are in hospital then we want to be there too. You need to involve users in the design, says Perez, a senior designer at IDEO in America who develops user-centred solutions.
I ask if he has an example of design success from the consultation and he talks of an MRI scanner that children were terrified of. Most needed sedatives before they went in. So they turned it into a pirate adventure. Children went sailing into the tunnel and all the machines noises they heard? They were other pirate ships. Excitement went up and sedative use went down: by 90 per cent.
At the fair, Maarit Miettinen is recalling a childhood experience, clambering over a chair designed by her father Ahti Kotikoski in the 1960s. It won an award in a 1968 competition whose judges included Robin Day and Arne Jacobsen. The low-lying plastic chair was discontinued during the 1970s’ oil crisis but she is resurrecting it, much to her father’s delight. “He is very, very touched by it,” she smiles.