The Design District in Helsinki is a design junky’s paradise. This district, located just 15 minutes from the railway station, gathers creative people together and showcases the fruits of their labour. The Design District is home to over 200 shops that feature home decoration, gifts, fashion, jewellery, antiques, galleries and restaurants, and the area not only prides itself on the quality of its wares – but on the design of the buildings that house them too. There’s also the Design Museum and the Museum of Finnish Architecture to explore too.
Design Forum Finland
Creativecommons.org/IK’s World Trip
This is a must-stop for anyone whose interest in design drew them to the Design District in the first place. The Design Forum's purpose is to promote Finnish design and artistic culture internationally. This organization is overseen by the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design, which has been promoting Finnish creations since 1875. It is within this forum that the artists, architects and craftspeople hold monthly meetings to exchange ideas.
While the Design Forum is a functional place for the craftspeople and businessmen in the Design District, it is also a shop. The boutique features clothing, jewellery and housewares by the artists in the Design District that are just starting out.
Artek is to Finland what Ikea is to Sweden. This company is the father of furniture design and its flagship store is located in the Design District of Helsinki. Since the company’s foundation in 1935, employees like visual arts promoter Mare Gullichsen and art historian Nils-Gustav Hahl have combined art with technical precision to create some of the hottest modern furniture.
When it comes to housewares, visitors to Helsinki's Design District won't find any store better than Iittala. This Finnish company prides itself on modern Scandinavian designs. In its hip little shop, it shows off the great work of some of the country's top houseware designers. This is where local Finns and visitors to the district head to get some of the cutting edge glasses, vases, flatware and dinnerware. The prize jewel of Iittala is the glassware that was designed by the brilliant Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, who also founded Artek, the aforementioned furniture store.
Iittata started in 1881 as a glass company but soon expanded to produce all manner of housewares. Over the years, it has risen to international fame and has outlets all over Scandinavia, Germany and Japan. What makes its collections so desirable is the attention to detail. The housewares sold at Iittata are as much functional pieces of kitchenware as they are pieces of art.
For those that find themselves in need of a quick caffeinated boost, Kappeli is the place to be. Kappeli is the most popular and stylish cafe in the city, so its home in the Design District is quite fitting. It has been serving coffee to thirsty Finns since 1867 and has come to be known as the pearl of Esplanadi Boulevard, which is in the heart of the Design District. Premium quality coffee and a wonderful Finnish menu are served during the day, before the cafe becomes a stylish bar at night. The extensive wine list at this cafe and bar combo is nothing to scoff at either, featuring some great imports from France and Italy, as well as a few gems for Chile and Argentina.
Established in 1951 by Viljo and Armi Ratia, Marimekko has become one of Finland's most legendary textile designers. Famous for weaving colours and fabrics into beautiful minimalist styles, Marimekko gained international attention when Jacqueline Kennedy wore several Marimekko dresses during her husband's 1960 presidential campaign in the United States. The company earned further international acclaim when it partnered with Crate and Barrel and again when the designs were showcased on the popular TV series Sex and the City. Now the company has expanded its reach internationally with 80 different stores all over the world, but its flagship store still remains nestled deep in the Design District of Helsinki.
Showroom Helsinki is one of the newer establishments in the Design District. This wonderful art gallery was founded in 2008 and it represents and works with the most influential and interesting contemporary artists within Finland. Currently, the gallery hosts and represents new works by Jani Leinonen, Jiri Geller, Aurora Reinhard and Mari Keto. However, it also hosts exhibits that circulate monthly. These exhibits showcase the art of both promising young artists within the Design District and prestigious artists from around the world.
This fascinating museum was founded in 1873 and features a variety of exhibitions on both Finnish and international designs, including textiles, industrial and graphic designs. One of the permanent exhibits highlights the evolution of Finnish design from the 19th century to the modern day. This pairs perfectly with Helsinki's Design District, as visitors can see the evolution of ideas within the exhibit demonstrated in the surrounding stores and exhibition spaces.
Museum Of Finnish Architecture
While visitors to Helsinki's Design District merely have to open their eyes to see great architecture, there is so much more to see all around Finland. Finnish architects believe that the modern age doesn't just have to be functional – it has to be beautiful as well. The museum was founded on the basis of the photographic collection compiled by the Finnish Association of Architects. This beautiful museum is located directly next door to the Design Museum, and visitors can easily spot it because of the wonderful neo-classical building it is housed in. It wasn't until 1984 that the city thought to link the buildings as one with a new building to bridge the gap. Now visitors can meander from the Design Museum to the Museum of Finnish Architecture without stepping foot outdoors.