Helsinki: World Design Capital 2012

13 January 2012 | This 'n' that

Swimming in the rain: winter joys of Helsinki. Photograph: Valtteri Hirvonen – Eriksson & Co.

After Turin (Italy, 2008) and Seoul (Republic of Korea, 2010), 2012 Helsinki is the third World Design Capital, selected in 2009 by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID).

Helsinki was considered to be a city where ‘design has for decades been a pivotal enabler to building an open city’.

The theme is ‘Open Helsinki – Embedding Design in Life‘. The idea is to improve the everyday life and environment of the citizens and the development of both public services and private enterprises.

In addition to Helsinki, the realisation of the Design Capital year will be carried out by four other cities: neighbouring Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen as well as Lahti (some hundred kilometres north of the capital). The Finnish government, two ministries, 21 commercial companies and some universities will co-operate in this project, which has a budget of 16 million euros (2010–2013).

The programme includes some 300 different events, half of them development projects, themed ‘The changing city’ or ‘New solutions’; the other half consists of various exhibitions and encounters for the citizens of Helsinki, tourists and design people.

The ultimate goal of this all is said to be ‘permanent change’. Whatever that really means – good luck!

However, as writer and design critic Kaj Kalin noted in a review in Helsingin Sanomat newspaper (30 December), Finland is full of well-educated designers, but lacks both investment money prepared to take risks and working industry: soon all production will have moved to cheaper countries – and nobody will be able to produce anything. New Finnish design, Kalin argues, mostly approximates merely to ‘a show parade of models and prototypes’.

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