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
Cafe chairs are often by Artek, the furniture company founded in 1935 by architect Alvar Aalto (who has a number of buildings in Helsinki including the Finlandia Hall) with his wife Aino, Maire Gullichsen and Nils-Gustav Hahl. Design is easy to find, the major brands, from Eero Aarnio to Kartell, all have shops in Helsinki, many in the Design District near the city centre or, for a one-stop-shop, at the Design Forum. You can also stay in a Design Hotel here, the Klaus K.
The recognition of tradition’s value was underscored recently when Artek bought a secondhand furniture store on Lonnrotinkatu Street.
Artek 2nd Cycle is a gathering of used Artek pieces and those by other 20th-century furniture maestros in an underground white-brick cavern. One stool they sold came with a history and, on enquiring who had owned it before, the buyer found out that it had belonged to his grandfather.
The company has just linked up with Vitra, which will see its products become even better known globally.
Yet along with reverence for the old, there is admiration and encouragement of the new. At the Arabia factory and Iittala outlet, I meet Elina Aalto (no relation ) who had just created – with her husband – a ply storage box for Iittala.
The couple also worked on the Ikea kitchen design in collaboration with children: part of the new generation of designers encouraged by established companies.
Helsinki Design Week
Helsinki Design Week 2014 will be held on September 4th-14th next year. The week is run by Luovi, a design service agency founded in 1995 by Kari Korkman which began by making bags and laptop cases.
Luovi started launching new collections as exhibitions, with other companies exhibiting in parallel, and so Helsinki Design Week began, officially in 2005. The goal was to develop the city as an environment for creative industry.
It took on the Old Customs Warehouse (see story) in 2010 to use for exhibitions, events, PechaKucha nights, concerts, fashion shows, fashion and design shoots, a film location, parties and a Finnish Design Shop pop-up store. It is the the main venue for Helsinki Design Week .
Helsinki Design Week wants to develop further and collaborate internationally: take note Ireland.