Photo: Helsinki Design Week


Helsinki Design Week, the largest design and architecture festival in the Nordics, kicked off today, running from September 8 to 17. This year's theme is "Once Upon a Time," with events across the city narrating the stories of the Finnish capital and its creative minds. Program Director Anni Korkman shares six intriguing highlights from this year's program.

The 2023 Helsinki Design Week marks the start of a three-year journey leading up to its 20th anniversary.

This year, the festival's main venue is the charming Merikortteli (Maritime Block) in the Punavuori district. Once an 1800s shipyard, Hietalahdenranta has transformed into a hub for creative professionals and businesses, housing graphic designers, architects' offices, a coffee roastery, a cinema, and an auction house, among others.

The festival boasts an extensive program of over 130 events throughout Helsinki, ranging from exhibitions and discussions to children's design activities. The top-floor main exhibition at Merikortteli explores the concept of "good everyday life" and has been curated by Ulla Koskinen, the editor-in-chief of Asun magazine. Visitors can engage in discussions sparked by the exhibition at the Let Me Wine & HDW Bar, where Let Me Wine, a local importer of organic wines, will be pouring their finest selections.

Here are Program Director Anni Korkman's top picks from this diverse program:

  1. Merikortteli Main Exhibition and Discussions: In the heart of Punavuori's Merikortteli, there's daily programming during the festival. Panel discussions bring together various perspectives, contributing to the multi-faceted design discourse. They also underscore the importance of sharing stories. On Saturday, September 16, from 6 PM to 8 PM, the "Architect's House Evening" will feature five architects introducing themselves through inspiring residential buildings from different decades and parts of the world. Participating architects include Helena Sandman, Mikko Heikkinen, and Jaakob Solla. (September 13-17, Pursimiehenkatu 29, 1st and 6th floors)

  2. Helsinki Design Night: The new design night event sheds light on overlooked design work and its impact on Helsinki. The festival's closing celebration will take place at Merikortteli's upper floor after the official festival program ends. Design Night is organized in collaboration with 417 World, the creative collective behind Post Bar and Solstice Festival, known for blending music, art, interesting locations, and high-quality technical executions. The evening will feature performances by My Friend Melo, gem-K, and DJ JVS. (September 16, 9 PM - 11:30 PM, Merikortteli)

  3. Open Studios: A two-day Open Studios event invites people to explore the workspaces and processes of creative professionals, enhancing Helsinki's reputation as a creative design city. Among the participating studios are Paja&Bureau, Nordkapp, Suunnittelutoimisto Amerikka, Arkkitehtitoimisto Avarrus, Qvik, and Klaus Haapaniemi & co. The event partners with the StoryDrops map app, allowing visitors to listen to short interviews with each studio. (September 8, 3 PM - 8 PM in various districts, and September 15, 3 PM - 8 PM in others)

  4. HDW at Kaapelitehdas (Cable Factory): Design Market, Collectors' Market, and HDW Children's Design Week: Running alongside the popular Design Market, the Collectors' Market (September 9-10) brings together unique and rare items, vintage pieces, and limited production runs. Participating sellers include Metropolitan Area Recycling Centre, Marimekko Pre-Loved, Fargo Vintage, and Harri Koskinen. In line with HDW's "Once Upon a Time" theme, the event will showcase the stories behind well-loved objects. The Cable Factory will also host HDW Children's Design Week, featuring activities such as protest sign workshops. (September 9-10, 11 AM - 6 PM, Cable Factory)

  5. Designs for a Cooler Planet: Helsinki Design Week has fostered a close partnership with Aalto University for several years. It's noteworthy that a city festival collaborates so closely with a large student community. In an era where there's constant pressure to launch something new, the research projects bring a fresh perspective. (September 6 - October 6, Väre, Aalto University, Otaniemi)

  6. Jenny Nordberg: "Freedom of a Designer" Exhibition: Swedish designer Jenny Nordberg's exhibition opens at the Design Museum during the start of Helsinki Design Week. Nordberg, known for her works addressing mass production, overconsumption, and the designer's responsibilities in tackling these issues, will also be featured in a live radio interview on September 7, available as a podcast afterward.

Helsinki Design Week promises an exciting exploration of design, architecture, and creativity, inviting locals and visitors to immerse themselves in the city's vibrant design culture. Don't miss out on these captivating events that celebrate the past, present, and future of design in Helsinki.

For more information on Helsinki Design Week and its full program, visit here.