Finnish beginning— Helsinki


The World Design Capital for 2012 is having a design renaissance. Helsinki officials, academics and designers are inspired by the chance to prove it isn’t stuck in the shade of its mid-century heritage. Three key facts: 1: Three per cent of city budget goes on culture. 2: Bars open until 02.00. 3:Parks make up 40 per cent of the city.

Aalto University, Elizabeth Salonen, Suvi Saloniemi, The Lutheran Cathedral

The Empire-style façade of Helsinki’s harbourside City Hall is just that: a façade. The building, originally a hotel when it was built in the early 1800s, was remodelled in the 1960s, keeping just its outer skin as dictated by strict conservation regulations. Today, the 1960s interior – with its white walls and enormous forest green shag-pile rug – has in its turn been preserved. Two opposing architectural styles co-exist here and the building is a good metaphor for Helsinki’s current design conundrum.

The city has recently been chosen as the…

Perfect position

Finland’s national carrier, Finnair, has an unrivalled service connecting Europe to Asia. Helsinki is also a midway point between America and Asia and, when the fast train begins service this autumn, St Petersburg will eventually be just three hours away. The Finnish capital is looking less like just another Scandinavian outpost and is now beginning to make the most of its strategic geographical positioning.


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