Friday, September 14, 2012

Visiting the Design Capital of the World 2012

The colorful new Baana.

Interior of the Temple of Silence.
The newly completed Music Hall's bike racks.

Temple of Silence, exterior.

Center for 2012 Design Activities.

Earlier this year the Mayor of Helsinki, Jussi Pajunen came to Chicago with a Finnish delegation to promote Helsinki's World Design Capital 2012. Last month I was thrilled to spend four weeks in Helsinki exploring all the fascinating events.

Mayor of Helsinki, Jussi Pajunen in Chicago.
The entire city had prepared a number of shows, exhibits, and events to promote better urban living. Good design in any level delights us all and can help make our lives easier.

My favorite new building is Temple of Silence, made entirely out of beautiful wood. It is just stunning, in the middle of a very busy square. It is a place where anyone can stop by and have a moment of silence. In this noisy world we live in today, silence is really golden.

The new Music Hall is nearby, a place not to be missed by any Helsinki visitor. It offers various music performances-we had the honor to hear Hannu Lintu's concert. The place is open throughout the day for visitors to drop in and listen to some of the free music performances. A magnificent fish sculpture in the front and sleek modern bike racks in the back bring out the best in Finnish art.

Right by the new Music Hall you can find the new Baana which takes you to Ruoholahti, one of the most modern parts of Helsinki. The Baana is built on old railroad tracks for pedestrians and cyclists. It is exceptionally well designed and provides plenty of fun activity areas for its users. At Kaapelitehdas in Ruoholahti I had an opportunity to visit High Design, an event where I saw the latest industrial products from dentist chairs to street cars. A lot more thought is given to how the end users can enjoy the products today, even tractors can be ordered in custom colors. The new street car seemed to have an Angry Birds expression, perhaps a good way to get people to stay out of its way on the busy city streets.

The entire town came alive during Night of the Arts, an event on the 23rd of August. The main attraction was a kilometers long Domino set that collapsed throughout the city creating a big rush. I witnessed someone accidentally starting the run, it was great to see how everyone rushed to stop it just on time. Some of the other interesting events were chocolate body painting and a food market where people could sample local specialties from different parts of Finland including fried 'muikku' fish from Savonlinna or reindeer stew from Lapland.

Kids doing fun projects.
The Design Paviljonki is the center of major activities during the year. Every day there is a variety of programs, all centered around the idea of designing a better city. I saw how kids had created fun chair covers that were used in buses and street cars during the Night of the Arts.

If you love arts/design and enjoy walking/cycling I would highly recommend my home town Helsinki. That is where I go to get re-energized and I feel that my time spent there this summer was well invested. So go ahead and add Helsinki onto your bucket list if you are ready to experience something new and unique.

Domino's final run on the stairs at Senate Square.