The Roomba J9 robot vacuum cleaner. Photo: Manufacturer


This spring, the Museum of Finnish Architecture and the Design Museum Helsinki will unveil "FIX: Care and Repair," an innovative exhibition that questions the relentless pursuit of the new in favor of celebrating the art of repair and maintenance. Opening on April 26, 2024, and running until January 5, 2025, this collaborative exhibit seeks to alter perceptions of wear and decay by highlighting their inherent value in both architecture and design.

Spanning two venues, "FIX: Care and Repair" delves into the dynamic life cycle of objects and structures, from their inevitable aging and soiling to their breaking and subsequent repair. The exhibition poses reflective inquiries into the nature of care: What do we choose to maintain, and why? Which objects fall beyond the ambit of our concern?

Curated by Kaisa Karvinen, Jutta Tynkkynen, and Sara Martinsen, with design by Lauri Johansson, the exhibit juxtaposes careful preservation against harmful neglect. It features artifacts that have acquired a distinguished patina alongside those marred by injudicious upkeep, prompting visitors to reconsider the boundaries between cherished wear and unwanted deterioration.

"FIX: Care and Repair" also explores the museum's role in selecting what is preserved for posterity, emphasizing the selective nature of conservation. Through items like Harry Bertoia's Diamond chair and the juxtaposition of Paavo Tynell's Domus floor lamps—one celebrated for its natural patina and the other criticized for its care—attendees are invited to reflect on the value of maintenance and the choices that define historical preservation.

In addition to its philosophical inquiries, the exhibition showcases the tangible skills of repair and maintenance through contemporary and historical examples. From 1950s darning templates to the digital age's online tutorials, such as those offered by the YouTube channel Odd Tinkering, "FIX: Care and Repair" underscores the transmission of repair knowledge across generations. A notable case study is the meticulous renovation of the Helsinki City Theatre, which demonstrates the high level of expertise and dedication required for architectural preservation.

Beyond the static displays, the exhibition is animated by an engaging program of events designed to foster interaction and learning. These include repair demonstrations, curator-led tours, and workshops that promise to enrich visitors' understanding of the exhibition themes.

By focusing on the practices of repair, cleaning, and maintenance, "FIX: Care and Repair" offers a counter-narrative to the disposability prevalent in modern consumer culture. It champions a more sustainable approach to our material world, one that values the beauty in age and the dignity in repair. Through this exhibition, the Museum of Finnish Architecture and the Design Museum Helsinki not only challenge the ideal of novelty but also advocate for a deeper appreciation of the objects and structures that make up our everyday lives.