Design Capital makes its mark


Helsinki’s year as World Design Capital 2012 has drawn much international attention and enlivened the city with exhibitions, workshops, urban planning initiatives and experimental spaces.

Although the year is coming to an end, there is still time to catch plenty of events and visit places that emerged during the year. Dive in and check these out.

Slaughterhouse fine


Abattoir (“butchery”) is an intersection point for design and food that will remain open until the end of December. Despite its grim name, this former slaughterhouse area from the 1930s is a friendly place in which food labourers sip coffee next to creative types from the nearby Sörnäinen neighbourhood.

Abattoir hosts farmers’ markets, pop-up restaurants, fashion shows and other events. The main Kellohalli (“clock hall”) houses a cafeteria-style Finnish restaurant, a pasta factory, an organic-food collective, an exhibition space, a small culinary library and an arts-and-crafts corner for kids. Kellohalli is run by Antto Melasniemi, chef and former member of the rock band HIM.

This winter, these buildings will welcome more restaurants, event venues and shops, taking a cue from New York’s Meatpacking District and Copenhagen’s Kødbyen. There are also plans for a teaching kitchen and a cocktail school. This gritty old district has definitely been shaken and stirred.

Arts in action

Kaisa House

Many projects are going strong in the last two months of the year, and the offerings range from the abstract to the concrete. On the non-material level, there’s the 925 project, aimed at making the workweek more efficient and enjoyable, and the latest updates to the WDC’s mobile application. Recently unveiled, permanent spaces include the University of Helsinki’s new, soaring main library, Kaisa House.

Much of the World Design Capital year has focused on envisioning, developing and offering fresh public spaces. Among the most interesting additions this autumn have been a new culinary hub and a seaside sauna.

Steamroom with a view

Kulttuurisauna (“culture sauna”) is a public bathhouse on the waterfront of Helsinki’s Merihaka district, a central but curiously unknown part of the city. The first public sauna built in Helsinki in half a century is the brainchild of designer Nene Tsuboi and architect Tuomas Toivonen, who began planning it before Helsinki was picked as the world’s third Design Capital.

“The sauna is quite traditional, with a mostly wooden interior,” says Tsuboi. The women’s side has a view of Uspenski Cathedral, while the men’s side looks out toward the archipelago. A sheltered courtyard offers a chance to dip in the sea year-round, under the watchful eye of an old birch tree.

Kulttuurisauna is also a model of low-carbon efficiency. It uses only renewable energy sources, including solar, ocean thermals and the sauna’s wood heat, which is captured to warm the bathwater and the building. 


The Home
Design Museum ( Korkeavuorenkatu 23
to January 13, 2013
A wide-ranging exploration of domestic themes from interior decorating to homelessness and nomadism.

Unbuilt Helsinki
Museum of Finnish Architecture ( Kasarmikatu 24
December 5 to February 24, 2013
The exhibit presents an alternative vision of the Finnish capital based on unrealised urban planning projects.

Compiled and written by Wif Stenger

A longer version of this article was published in Finnair´s Blue Wings magazine (Nov 2012).

Published November 28, 2012

Category: Local features