LET’S MEET UP: While millions of cities, businesses and businesses are still struggling to figure out how and how much to bring large groups together, the City of Helsinki rolled out a potential model during Helsinki Design Week.
Established in 2005, Helsinki Design Week is the largest design festival in the Nordic countries, but curious or potential imitators need not travel to Finland to participate or glean ideas. This year’s edition will take place from September 1-11, online and in person. Thanks to an open call, the organizers decided on more than 100 events under the theme “We are open”. For the first time in the history of the event, the main venue will be open to the public throughout the 10 days of the festival. On the upper floors of what locals call the “Sugar Cube”, a sleek 1962 building designed by famed architect Alvar Aalto, visitors will be encouraged to brainstorm and exchange ideas, take guided tours, indulge in ephemeral restaurant Kuurna and to listen to talk about design and architecture.
Giving new meaning to the cultural ambassador – a principle for which the design-minded Scandinavian country is renowned – there will be talks of design diplomacy in the ambassadors’ residences. Ten embassies will take part in these discussions, each of which will bring together a Finnish design professional and another from the country of origin of the embassy. Conversation topics will be chosen randomly from a deck of cards and speakers will not be briefed beforehand to prepare in advance in the interest of a more natural conversation.
HDW and the City of Helsinki will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the World Design Capital on September 1 by honoring a designer or design team for bringing something positive to the city. Environmental design ideas will be showcased in Life 1.5’s Designs for a Cooler Planet exhibit. With the help of the Helsinki International Film Festival, a series of surprise screenings will take place across the city.
Looking ahead, there will also be a “What If?” Alternative Futures” at the Helsinki Design Museum which is inspired by the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra report which explores topics such as feelings can be measured and different species can communicate.
Helsinki city officials, designers and creatives may be onto something. While the pre-eminence of big cities should not be affected in a post-COVID-19 world, cities could increasingly become cultural and civic gathering places rather than shopping destinations or office hubs, according to the “Cities in a Post-COVID World” report. Three academics have determined that more events will take place outdoors on city streets and squares as city centers transform into more walkable and cycle-friendly places. The migration of affluent city residents to the suburbs could give way to an influx of young artists and creatives, they wrote. But the cultural divide could widen as the disease and the financial fallout affect the disadvantaged the most.
There will also be more anticipated gatherings like the popular three-day design market, where designers and other creatives will sell fashion, accessories and other items. Recognizing the importance of cultivating children’s interest in all design disciplines, HDW will offer them a multitude of events as part of “Children’s Design Week”. The main event will give children and young people a voice to express what kind of city center would feel open to them.