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At the Helsinki Design Week 2017

This year’s theme is Q&A. The question: How can Finnish design create more international connections? The answer? More than 250 events in its programme.

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Text by Rab Messina
Photography by Aino Huovio, Otso Kaijaluoto and Iiris Heikka

The Finns are focused on getting more people to discuss design. Case in point: the theme for this year’s Helsinki Design Week is Q&A. That’s why they’re introducing a new event concept, titled DesignCommons, that allows visitors to share a meal and share their curiosity with internationally renowned creatives —such as architect David Adjaye, Dutch architect Winy Maas and Ikea design director Marcus Engman. “Finnish design will only succeed by creating international connections,” said director Kari Korkman. “DesignCommons is the result of this effort. Its evening concept has been created by two experienced event organisers: Design Indaba and Helsinki Design Week, and the idea is to make speakers sit with the audience instead of stepping up on a stage.”

But they’ve literally come up with hundreds of ways of creating these connections: the programme includes more than 250 events, taking place from September 7-17. Here are some of the lineups that caught our eye.

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Here’s another first at HDW: Data-Driven Design Day, an event that which on how to use computer data in design.

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Visit the ten finalists —and the winner— of the Home Revisited exhibition, one of the largest design awards in Finland —the brief focused on the home of the future and its changing needs.

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Q&A is really everywhere: Go for an after-work design ride on a dedicated tram that tours the districts of Helsinki, and join the Q&A-themed discussions right in the vehicle —from the future of cities to creative cooperation.

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The main venue of HDW is the Clarion Hotel. Its lobby is hosting a glass art exhibition by Mikko Paakkanen and Iittala, a lighting installation by Finnish Secto Design and a selection of iconic Kalevala jewelry. Don’t skip the terrace, though: check out the dozens of large seal sculptures on this custom-made “beach.”

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The HOP installations are back, with six new items in the city centre. The series, which includes a parking-slot sized apartment house and a Danish greenroom, focuses on the theme of a developing city.

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The always popular Design Market features more than 150 vendors, from stationery to flowers. This year also marks the launch of a new section, curated by local concept store TRE: the New Market, focused on novelty shopping.

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With 400 featured companies and 11 special exhibitions, the Habitare fair is the largest of its kind in the country, dedicated to design, furniture and interior decoration. Some of the exhibitions are The Block, the largest showcase of young contemporary Finnish designers, and Far Ahead, a pavilion for future technologies, materials and products. There’s also an exhibition by industrial designer Juhani Salovaara, the winner of the 2016 Kaj Franck Design Prize, along with No Trash, which aims to legitimise trash design, and Signals, an experiential exhibition that discusses the social phenomena behind the current trends in interior decoration.

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Habitare is joined by two concurrent events: Antiikki, a sales exhibition of antique and vintage items, and HighEnd Helsinki, featuring high-quality audio and video equipment.

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And won’t someone think of the children? Of course, HDW always does: there’s the fifth edition of the Children’s Weekend, which will take place on September 16 and 17 in Kattilahalli. Surrounded by colourful installations made by designer Tero Kuitunen, little visitors can join workshops where they can try out the work of a designer from an architect’s, interior designer’s and even an astronaut’s perspective. 

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View of the Design Market
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A vendor at the Design Market
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The Habikids section of Habitare
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At the opening of the HOP installations
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HOP's Growroom
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HOP's parking-slot sized apartment house
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At the Children's Weekend

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