Helsinki - City of Design

Nominated as the World Design Capital in 2012, Helsinki has also been awarded  UNESCO City of Design status. It is indeed  a wonderful design destination and this was one of our key reasons for visiting. Finland is famous for its design credentials with famous architects like Alvar Aalto and his Artek furniture and homewares brand, glassware from Littala (below),  iconic floral designs from Marrimekko (above) and many others.

This is a city where they care about how things look and feel, where architecture, design and public space is an important component of living. I started off at the Design Museum though D.'s first stop was a quick visit to the Museum of Finnish Architecture which has a very small exhibit. He was glad to have visited, but it's a rather modest effort. We both liked the Design Museum which had a chronological exhibit  tracing the history, development and contribution of Finnish designers  and  a temporary fashion exhibit upstairs.
At the museum you'll see everything from Scandinavian Arts and Crafts to Art Deco and modern design, they have furniture, decorative arts, industrial products.
I liked the fashion exhibit which featured everything from traditional designs to futuristic outfits.
As you can see the displays were simple but well done. 
Who could resist these shoes?
Perhaps these outfits which are just for Halloween? Or maybe they could work for the EuroVision Song Contest? Perhaps this wasn't the very best of Finnish design but they are fun and people clearly get bored during those long dark winter months!
In addition to the Design Museum we also wanted to explore the lived environment in Helsinki so we headed out to Arabianranta where new developments have been built around a repurposed factory. Alhough this isn't conventional tourist fare, the tourist department has developed a guided walking trail through one are where you can see how they've included art installations between the blocks of flats, see below.
Like much of Helsinki this neighborhood isn't far from the water. This area was really lovely there is enough density, nice public space,  public art and a tram which goes into town. The development is mixed and some blocks are student housing.
We headed out here in part to see a park designed by the great theatrical director, designer and polymath Robert Wilson. However, though it was interesting to see, I thought it was the least successful of the public art installations we'd seen. It felt particularly cold and rather artificial - nobody was using the space and it felt very inward looking.
In contrast I loved this community garden which was very well used.
I enjoyed browsing Marrimekko and you'll find a number of outlets both in town and at the airport. We did;t go to the outlet but there's at least one. We did go to the Littalla outlet in Arabianranta .
Right in the center of town(not far from my hotel) I visited the Artek showroom  which felt like a design pilgrimage. It was fun to see so many iconic designs in their native habitat! I can't resist including a few pictures
Helsinki offers a lot to see a do if you're a fan of architecture and design. We were there for five nights and spent most of our time on the design trail which meant we failed to see some of the major historic sites like the UNESCO World Heritage fortress island of  Suomenlinna! We passed it up in favor of  walking along the canal, looking at buildings like Aalvar Alto's Olympic Stadium, Finlandia Hall and his studio which I've blogged about elsewhere.
We loved the tram system and roamed around Helsinki seeing lots of the newer neighborhood. 
Design types will enjoy the Wallpaper Guide to Helsinki which is very particular, we found it jived with what we're interested in so it worked for us. Do seek out the Chapel of Silence which is an extraordinarily peaceful chapel in a chaotic shopping environment in Kaampi. From the outside it resembles a strange egg that has fallen to earth! 
Inside it's very lovely  with a plainness  calmness and beautify that's hard to convey. The moulded circular walls are breathtaking and  you can take a stunning 360 degree virtual tour here of the inside and outside here.
Helsinki is a city we enjoyed and that I would be happy to return to, well at least when it isn't too cold!


nankie said…
Thanks for the interesting tour of a city that I've never been to (and your Fodor's trip report) - it is now on my list of places I'd like to see. Loved the tour of the church. What a unique place.
Nankie - Thanks so much for your comment - I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. I just write this stuff and put it up there. I know lots and lots of people come to the blog but I don't get a lot of comments so thanks for the encouragement , much appreciated ;). Glad you liked the look of Helsinki, that chapel is delightful!