Those of you who subscribe to design festivals around the world will know that September was a cracker for design! With Helsinki Design Week from 6 – 16 September and the London Design Festival quickly following from 14 – 23 September it was definitely design overdose (in a good way). September was also the month for Istanbul Design week and the Cardiff Design Festival. I’m really looking forward to seeing what the theme “brave new world” is going to inspire when Dutch Design Week takes off this week from 20-28 October.
This year, I was lucky enough to attend both Helsinki Design Week (HDW) and the London Design festival and wanted to take some time to share with our readers some of the amazing design products and ideas I came across. I managed to take lots of photos and as they say, “a picture tells a thousand words” so you might want to skip to my photo essay taking you on a visual journey of clever design from our friends in the Northern Hemisphere.
Monocle magazine recently voted Helsinki the most livable city in the world. This makes a lot of sense and with Helsinki enjoying its role as World Design Capital there was a lot on offer. After a long flight from Sydney, I began the festivities by attending the opening party at the Helsinki Design Week headquarters – the historic Old Customs House building. Situated on the bustling harbour – where fete stalls selling grilled salmon and fresh berries are but a stone’s throw from the Design Shopping District heaving with fresh new design and established design icons like Marimekko, Artek and Ittala.
The theme for Helsinki Design Week is co-creation and the first floor of the Old Customs House is adorned and wrapped with the signature bright Marimekko colours and patterns we have come to know. Artist Sebastian Mahaluf teamed with the Marimekko’s design team to create this installation.
The opening night party is abuzz with cool music and chatter from Helsinki’s brightest and coolest young things. Upstairs, an exhibition curated by HDW director, Kari Korkman offers an intriguing look at the latest in contemporary Finish design. I was particularly impressed by the work of the Scandinavian Carpenter Collective – freestanding kitchen furniture meticulously crafted with old fashion precision and skill – using humble materials and a simple palette of colours. The CARGO collection combining beautifully hand-made raw birch units with stainless steel are all made in Finland. The detail and simplicity of traditional wood joinery with barely a screw in sight was breathtaking.
A highlight of the trip was meeting my colleagues from design festivals around the world – Helsinki, Holland, Cardiff, India, Berlin, Stockholm, Istanbul,Taipei, Belgrade and Moscow. Here we are hanging out at the Old Customs House.
Back row – Jovan Jelovac (Belgrade Design Week), Kari Korkman (Helsinki Design Week), Hans Robertus (Dutch Design Week), Tinglen Lo (Taipei Design Week) , Arhan Kayar (Istanbul Design Fair), Sudhir Sharma (India Design Festival)
Front row – Sinem Kocayas (Istanbul Design Fair), Olwen Mosely (Cardiff Design Week), Anastasia Vilner (Moscow Design Week), Lily Katakouzinos, Sydney Design, Sanna Gebehehu (Stockholm Furniture Fair) Ulla Pasikallio (Helsinki Design Week)
With champagne flowing and a seemingly never-ending supply of newspaper wrapped jam jars filled with delicious cocktails using the local brew – Finlandia with wild berries (not a bad cure for jet lag I might add – must be the vitamin C!). Whilst sipping on this delicious (yet lethal) cocktail I managed to shop for a little home grown Finish design at the Finish Design Shop Pop Up. Cool new bicycle lights – check. Funky smoke alarm – check.
The following day, I wandered over to the other side of town – to the former Cable Factory in Salmisaari – once home to a teeming production line of electronic cables for companies such as Nokia, now a vibrant cultural district. The annual Design Market is a highlight on the calendar of your average house-proud Helsinkian. This vast factory space is filled with a veritable designers’ feast – featuring local design as well as surplus stock from a number of high end major brands. Everyone is here to snap a bargain – which might be the work of an emerging designer, a length of Marimekko fabric for a song or a heavily discounted Capellini sofa. For a city with a relatively small population, I was amazed at the thousands of people who flocked to this event.
My weekend ended with a visit to the flagship exhibition for the World Design Capital – the Everyday Discoveries: International Design Home Exhibition. A short walk across the harbour finds me in the old Power Plant in Suvilahti. Again, the Finish are great at making good use of empty industrial spaces and the Suvilahti venue is home to a number of cultural events throughout the year. At Everyday Discoveries, a range of displays representing different countries, were on show. Sadly, there was no representation from Australia and I wondered why given the calibre and talent on our shores.
My last day in Helsinki included a visit to the Habitare: Furniture/Interior decoration/ Design/ Lighting/Art/Antique Fair at the Helsinki Exhibition & Convention Centre. A clever component of this trade show is the inclusion of Art Helsinki and Salon, the art and antiques components which drive huge visitation from the general public. The prevailing feeling here was that product was returning to simple forms, humble materials with lots of unfinished wood, felt, leather, paper, bamboo, ceramic and concrete as well as subdued palettes of black, white, grey and brown with occasional splashes of colour.
Visits to the Museum of Finish Architecture and the Design Museum followed and after a large and inspirational dose of Finish design I headed to London to see one of the worlds biggest and influential design festivals. More about that later!
All the best for a very creative October