Finland – though a small country judging by its population of 5.5 million inhabitants and population density of 18 inhabitants per km2 (the lowest in the EU) – boasts many superlatives: there are more saunas than cars; it has the most heavy metal bands per capita; any Finnish noun can have over 200 different forms; Finns are the world’s top coffee drinkers, gulping down no less than 12 kg annually; they are the most avid readers of books and newspapers globally and world leaders in the use of libraries … The list goes on forever.
We wanted to discover the design scene of Helsinki and its exciting summers, when the city is about to burst with culture and happy people, packed with outdoor theaters, al fresco cinemas, open-air exhibitions, awkward wife-carrying competitions and the great Flow festival! – only to frustratingly die down during the winter when the capital does not receive any sunshine for 51 consecutive days, with the temperature dropping below 0 degrees Celsius on an average of 169 days. When asking people how they survive the winter, quite a few have confessed that they hit southern destinations for a month, generously using up their vacation days.
Most designers we met seem to have an awareness for design in their blood. The offices are packed with design classics combined with custom-made solutions, always with a sense of warmth, comfort and cosiness. In most offices people take off their shoes and walk around in slippers or barefoot – probably a tradition coming from those long snowy and muddy winters – admittedly, a little embarrassing for us Germans. Many design studios and agencies work for national brands with great pride, even if it is a Finnish pizza chain like Koti which named one of their bestsellers after Silvio Berlusconi – revenge served hot!
In Helsinki, it becomes apparent that there are very few chain stores as we know them in Germany. It just seems to be too far away from market capitalism. Instead, as you walk through the city, Finland reveals itself to be a true design nation: Local brands, designers, shops, restaurants and cafés make it exceptional. You encounter works of the world’s most imitated and admired designers and architects around every corner. From Eero Aarnio’s Ball Chair (James Bond’s favorite seat) to Marimekko Poppies (dresses once worn by Jacqueline Kennedy during her husbands’ 1960 presidential campaign), Finland has been setting trends for decades.
We invite you to discover the world’s northernmost EU capital during our journey and share with us the love for its rich design scene, from legends like Eric Brunn to the young wild kids, newcomers from Aalto University, The School of Arts, Design and Architecture of Helsinki.