Finland welcomes new design festival to Helskini



This August saw the inaugural edition of a brand-new design festival, set to become an annual fixture on the international design calendar. Design Helsinki ran from 24-25 August in Finland’s capital city which this year celebrates ten years since it was named World Design Capital in 2012. Renowned for its functional and minimalistic Nordic architecture, the city boasts the largest concentration of Art Nouveau buildings in Northern Europe, making it a key destination for architecture aficionados while Finnish design has made its mark on a global scale thanks to the likes of iconic designer Alvar Aalto as well as household names including Marimekko, not to mention the array of emerging talent.

Marking a decade since Helsinki was named World Design Capital, the city celebrated the occasion with a series of events and city-wide activities, with Design Helsinki, the capital’s first dedicated B2B contemporary design event, at the heart of the celebrations. Design Helsinki seeks to highlight the profound influence that Nordic design and its long-held commitment to sustainability has on the architecture and design industries as well as providing a platform for international design professionals to meet with sought-after, world-renowned brands. Additionally, the show worked with two major partners in Finland – Habitare and the Alvar Aalto Foundation – to provide exciting and relevant content for visitors. Habitare and Design Helsinki both featured in each other’s programmes. The creative director of Habitare, Laura Sarvilinna, was interviewed as part of the Design Helsinki programme on “Regenerate”, while Design Helsinki participated in Habitare’s programme as part of the theme “Blending Spaces”.

Featuring an unmissable programme for design, Design Helsinki will took place in various locations in and around Helsinki, including an international pavilion in Kasarmitori, a topical Talks programme in the Design Museum, installations in Esplanadi park as well as within multiple resident design showrooms. The fair also celebrated the area's local design showrooms who welcomed architects, designers, dealers, retailers and more to experience the best of Nordic and Scandinavian design.

Marimekko - Participating Showroom at Design Helsinki Integral to the festival, the local showrooms that partner with Design Helsinki provided a stimulating programme of topic-led events including talks, workshops, product launches and more. The vast range of showrooms dotted around the city-centre provide attendees an opportunity to explore some of the most inspiring commercial spaces that Helsinki has to offer with distinguished international brands like Carl Hansen, Norman Copenhagen and Kvadrat all taking part, alongside local sought-after names like Marimekko and Skanno. Participating showrooms included high-end contract furniture brands, technical specialists and material manufacturers, each of which will contribute to a diverse range of activities, led by industry experts.

A key feature at the event was a specially constructed international design pavilion situated in Kasarmitori square in the Kaartinkaupunki district of Helsinki. Framed by stunning historic buildings, Kasarmitori was chosen as the location for its architectural significance. Within the 1,650m2 pavilion, visitors discovered leading Scandinavian and international contract interiors brands with hundreds of products covering furniture, lighting, surfaces, architectural finishes and more. Brands already confirmed to take part include Aeris, Arktis, Eikund, Framery, Herman Miller, KT Interior, Martela, Lintex, naughtone, Vaarnii, Secto Design and many more.

In addition to partnering with showrooms and presenting international brands, Design Helsinki presented a series of specially commissioned installations, brand activations and a topical talks programme in partnership with Design Museum Helsinki. As part of the live programme, Design in Conversation created an in-depth dialogue with established and new design talent, industry leaders, journalists, and institutes, across a two-day programme of talks. Held within the former building of the Brobergska Samskolan high school in Kaarti, Design Museum partnered with the event to curate a comprehensive programme of free-to-attend sessions within their auditorium. A special exhibition by design studio FormaFantasma was also be in residence within the museum.

Piia Lehtinen, Head of Collaboration & Marketing, Design Museum Helsinki, says: ''We’re delighted to welcome a new international design event in Helsinki. We are also delighted to include our main exhibition ‘Design for Everybody’ and our gallery exhibition by Milan based design studio FormaFantasma to the talk's audience. It’s exciting to kickstart the fall season with Design Helsinki!“.

Media 10, organisers of Design Helsinki, comment: “Helsinki is recognised worldwide as a City of Design and in this year, its tenth since being named World Design Capital, we are delighted to shine a spotlight on the wealth of Nordic design talent with a two day celebration that will bring brands, showrooms and cultural institutions together.”

Habitare’s Business Manager Tanja Pasila comments: “We see the collaboration with Design Helsinki as an interesting opportunity for Habitare. Habitare holds a strong position among the events taking place in the autumn, and for more than 50 years, it has been highlighting interesting phenomena, experts and companies from the furniture, design and interior decoration industries. Through the collaboration, we can also enhance our international appeal in a new way.”

Design Helsinki will return 23-24 August 2023