Helsinki Design Week joined design professionals, gave voice to kids and encouraged dialogue

Helsinki Design Week was organized from 8 to 17 September around Helsinki city. After a few years’ break, its main exhibition collected the most relevant names in Nordic design under one roof in the Merikortteli block. Architecture and design education was highlighted in the festival programme for children and youth as well as by the Helsinki Design Award. The programme of 130 events attracted both Helsinki residents and international visitors.

Main venue Merikortteli’s pop-up winebar was by Let Me Wine. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen
Designer Lucas Zanotto was commisioned to create an entrance installation to Main Venue Merikortteli. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen

Helsinki Design Week’s versatile programme structure proved its vitality and more after the pandemic years. The theme for the 2023 festival was ‘Once upon a time’, and many stories of creative professionals were told and heard during the week. An open call for events inspired design professionals: the final programme consisted of 130 design- and urban-culture-related events around Helsinki city.

All elements of the temporary event space can be reused. This was important for the Exhibitions Architect Lauri Johansson. Photo: Aleksi Putanen

For example, at the event titled ‘A House by an Architect’, architects presented inspiring residential projects designed by their colleagues; the Design Diplomacy discussion series opened the doors of embassy residencies to the public; and the conclusive ‘Helsinki Design Night’ event on the top floor of Merikortteli transformed the space into a club styled by 417 World well known in the Helsinki nightlife.

Helsinki Design Night changed the main venue event space completely. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen
Helsinki Design Night. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen
Marimekko Pre-Loved was one of the vendors at Collectors’ Market. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen

New event concepts included the Collectors’ Market organized side by side with the popular Design Market and the multidisciplinary soiree series ‘Art Goes Showroom’.

Design Market at the Cable Factory. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen
One of Collectors’ Market’s was Helsinki Metropolitan Area Reuse Centre. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen
Art Goes Showroom brought live music to showrooms. In collaboration with Art Goes Kapakka. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen

Open Studios walks introduced creative professionals’ workspaces

The main attractions of the festival included the Open Studios walks that introduced the workspaces of creative professionals in Helsinki to the public. Those interested in the creative design process were given the chance to visit local design agencies and the professionals working in them. The scope of the studios involved was wide from graphic and digital design to interior architecture.

Organized on two sequential Fridays, this event series revealed that people love to learn about the creative professionals working in the city and to network at the end of their busy work week. Premises that are normally closed to the public attract people. The partner for this event was the Story Drops map application with which the visitors could listen to short interviews of each studio founder. The stories of the studios are still available online.

Important conversations at Open Studios event at Hellon. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen
Open Studios event at Kobra Agency in Kamppi. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen

HDW Children’s Design Week and Helsinki Design Award highlighted the role of kids and youth in design

HDW and the Finnish Association of Design Learning SuoMu together with Hakola and Tactic Games organized the HDW Children’s Design Week at the beginning of the festival to give voice and vision to kids in urban design. A design party for the entire family was held during the weekend 9–10 September at the Cable Factory. The programme included a workshop to make protest signs and “a colour riot” during which kids got to design the room of their dreams together with a professional.

HDW Children’s Design Week Partners: SuoMu, Hakola, Tactic Games. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen
The riot signs were displayed at the Telakka park near main venue Merikortteli. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen
HDW Children’s Design Week. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen

Design education and learning were embraced by the Helsinki Design Award, too, granted by HDW and the City of Helsinki. The jury gave the award to the Arabia Comprehensive School that has systematically and for a long time applied the design learning principles in its entire curriculum. The ARMU toolbox for design learning they have developed is openly available online. Read about the Arabia Comprehensive School and its principal Mari Suokas-Laaksonen in this article by Weekly.

Mari Suokas-Laakson giving a speech after receiving the Helsinki Design Award from the mayor of Helsinki, Juhana Vartiainen. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen

HDW cherishes continuous cooperation with Aalto University

HDW has collaborated with Aalto University for a long time. The ‘Designs for a Cooler Planet’ exhibition in Otaniemi was a natural continuum to the exhibitions seen in previous years. Aalto researchers, designers and students invited visitors on campus to explore dozens of versatile research and learning projects. All 1st floor exhibition designers can be found here.

ARTEFAKTI exhibition presented the works of Aalto University Contemporary Design MA students. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen

This year the Aalto students also took over the first floor of the main venue Merikortteli to exhibit the diploma works of their master’s degree programme in Contemporary Design.

Fashion + Sensibility was a joint exhibition by four fashion designers Ilona Hyötyläinen, Marjut Uotila and Merja Seitsonen and Johanna Vainio. Kuva: Aleksi Poutanen
ProtoPLAY. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen
Outsider Art Finland presented the works of artist Maria Tani. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen

Main exhibition provided a forum for top design influencers to present something new

Nikari, Woodnotes and Secto Design. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen
New Works. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen

The main exhibition curated on the top floor of Merikortteli, with a view over the rooftops of the Punavuori district, showed that HDW needs a home base to provide companies and communities the best possible venue to present new and influential ideas. The exhibition presenting ‘a good everyday life’ collected the very top of mainly Nordic design in one space. Novelties were presented by Moomin Arabia, Tulikivi and the Wuud project of Aalto University, among others. Read about all the exhibitors in this article by Helsinki Design Weekly.

Moomin Arabia. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen

The Nest installation, jointly built by the Finnish lighting brand FINOM and the Japanese textile and fashion brand minä perhonen, asked visitors: has our technology-filled life made us forget ourselves and the benefits and pleasures of rest and dreaming? What may happen if we detach ourselves for a moment from external stimuli and enter a dreamlike state? People were encouraged to sit on stone pillows and enjoy a woollen blanket. The room was lit by mushroom and cloud lamps made of Finnish birch veneer.

FINOM and minä perhonen. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen

The installation by Artek + Juslin Maunula premiered the Tile collection of ceramic objects designed and manufactured by ceramic artist and designer Xavier Mañosa. The extrusion technique known from ceramics has been innovatively used in the production of these objects. Other theme-related products were on display, too, including a floor light from the Kori collection and textile products from the Jumble collection made of textile-industry surplus materials.

Artek and Juslin Maunula. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen

Ponsia together with Rakla brought in the main exhibition at Merikortteli a glass installation formed from fragments of works by three contemporary artists. It was to show architects how visual arts complement facade structures and how to use art with glass construction and facade solutions. The idea of the installation was to show how art can be inserted in unexpected places.

Ponsia and Rakla Oy. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen

Henki Furniture presented the ‘Room for Thoughts’ cabinet designed by Harri Koskinen to store and charge devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones. This product helps create harmony and order to manage smart devices at home and to reduce their overuse. It establishes a completely new product category on the furniture market: battery charging cabinets. 

Henki Furniture was one of the new launches. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen

Next Helsinki Design Week will be organized from 6 to 15 September 2024.

HDW Main venue Merikortteli offered a fantastic setting for the festival. Photo: Aleksi Poutanen