• Review_2012_helsinki_article

Liv Siddall looks back on Helsinki's time in the design spotlight

Posted by Liv Siddall,

This year was massive for all sorts of reasons, and you probably don’t need me to spell out what I’m referring to. In such a monumental year, it could have been a blessing or a curse for any city to be named Design Capital, but in Helsinki’s case I think we can all agree it was the former.

We at It’s Nice That seem to post a lot of Finnish design and illustration on the site, and from the frightening, impeccable illustration of Jesse Auersalo, to the flawless, almost magical photography of Osma Harvilahti., there seems to be no shortage of talent coming from that area of the world. We were lucky enough to be invited out to Helsinki this year to celebrate their new title as World Design Capital.

It was fantastic to see a city so steeped in culture and tradition blooming with some of the most forward-thinking creativity. From the breathtaking, silent “Kamppi Chapel of Silence” located in the trendy heart of the city, to Kulttuurisauna the enviable public sauna in the making, the city just seemed so fresh and on its way to becoming something so unique in its comfortable, contemporary feel.

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    Kamppi Chapel of Silence

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    Kamppi Chapel of Silence

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    Kamppi Chapel of Silence

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    Kamppi Chapel of Silence

Helsinki is often recognised by the truly magnificent, White Cathedral in its city centre, but as well as boasting countless old, beautiful buildings, it is currently in the process of building an enormous, ultra-modern University library in the heart of the city. Designed by Anttinen Oiva Architects, this library may well be the most beautiful in the world, owing mainly to its enormous, undulating glass front on an unsuspecting side-street. Finland’s investment in learning and their sheer dedication to supporting their younger generations is testament to their way of life, and something that seemed to constantly reoccur in the World Design Capital projects.

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    Helsinki University Library

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    Helsinki University Library

A highlight of the trip was a visit to the home of the late, great architect Alvar Aalto. It is hard to believe that a house this beautiful, practical and functional was designed and completed before 1936. Designed to be lived and worked in simultaneously, this house on the outskirts of Helsinki is perhaps one of the most beautiful homes I have ever seen, without being at all showy or dated. You can find some photos that do justice to this house here on Nowness.

With such an incredible amalgamation of old and new, in this ever-changing and constantly updated city, there is no doubt that Helsinki has secured its place in the world of design for a long, long time to come.

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Posted by Liv Siddall

Liv joined It’s Nice That as an intern in 2011 and is now one of our editors. She oversees itsnicethat.com and has a particular interest in illustration, photography and music videos. She also runs our London listings site This At There, and is a regular on our Studio Audience podcast.