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Tuula, Anni, Jenna, Sasha and Martti preparing for the brunch discussion

On Saturday 8th of May, I was invited to join an inspiring and tasty brunch hosted by Ok Do and Sitra. A group of people from different design disciplines, art, it, skateboarding and bicycling, sat around the table to discuss ideas for Helsinki’s coming year as World Design Capital 2012. The local delicacies were provided by Maatilatori.

The morning’s topic was, focusing on the main theme of the WDC 2012 year, how to contribute to a more ‘open Helsinki’. We talked about inspiring experiences from Helsinki and abroad, and also about issues that need developing in our city.

The conversation went around cycling culture, bottom-up decision-making, winter conditions, availability of good, affordable food, where to hangout during daytime with children and spontaneous involvement in urban space. Besides looking for examples from outside, a crucial question is, how to better utilize the potentials of existing places, locations and traditions in the city. For example: why not develop the botanical gardens into public picnic places? Or, turn the many underground passage areas into pleasant and inviting hangout environments? Or, why not create more open-air swimming spots in the city centre, which is all surrounded by sea?

In the end, attitudes do have a great impact on the atmosphere and what people feel they can do in their city. For a city to be open, it should welcome different cultures and lifestyles, but also encourage people to participate and to initiate their own projects. In Finland, the idea of participation has often been considered problematic – but actually our group’s non-Finnish participants saw it in a bit different light. The small scale of Helsinki really puts the potential of participation in a different perspective compared to the World’s larger cities. People coming from New York or Seoul have found out that Helsinki’s small size makes it rather easy to pursue new ideas – whereas the average Finnish person might not even think it is allowed to try anything different.

As Bryan Boyer, project manager of the Helsinki Design Lab, said in an interview by We Are Helsinki magazine, the clear goal for Helsinki WDC year should be to “convey a people-first type of enthusiasm into doing and experiencing things together”. Good examples are important: “When you start to do things – and do them well – the promotion will take care of itself”, says Boyer.

»On Saturday, May 22, the organizers of World Design Capital Helsinki 2012 will hold an open Ideas Forum in different locations in Helsinki, Vantaa, Espoo, Kauniainen and Lahti. The forum is open for anybody to join.

Buckthorn (tyrni) yoghurt, chocolate bread and eastern finncattle milk (kyyttömaito) from Maatilatori
»The brunch was part of the Clues to Open Helsinki project by Ok Do and Sitra. People participating the brunch were: Bryan Boyer (Helsinki Design Lab /Sitra), Jenna Sutela and Anni Puolakka (Ok Do), Adam Greenfield (Nokia design), Hella Hernberg (designer and architect), Sasha Huber (designer and artist), Kaarle Hurtig, Johanna Hyrkäs (Architect and artist, Part), Nurri Kim (artist), Sanna Mander (designer, illustrator), Tuula Pöyhönen (Designer, ONNI), Petri Saarikko (HIIT, YKON) and Martti Tulenheimo (Helsingin vihreät).

4 Responses

  1. Barbis

    do you have any idea if it is also possible for people living abroad to participate?
    I have been living in HKI for a year and love the city. Currently I am dreaming of developing participation models for urban design and intercreativity…

  2. HH


    Everyone is welcome to join the idea forums on Saturday, May 22. There will be different sessions hosted by individual groups and by the organizers of the WDC 2012. You can also participate online. There’s more info on Facebook or at http://www.wdchelsinki2012.fi . The list of events will be published on 17th May.

    One of the main forums will be hosted by Helsinki Design Week and Open House Helsinki, at “Katajanokan kanavaterminaali” from 12-2 pm. Address: Katajanokanlaituri 2.

    And, of course, there is still almost two years to go before 2012, so the brainstorming is likely to continue..

  3. Joseph Parsons

    Dear Madam/ Dear Sir,

    Thank you for an inspiring and interesting article. Although, I could not help noticing a tiny collocation faux pas. In the second paragraph the writer stated that the participants to the brunch wanted to develop an issue rather than address one. To my very limited knowledge, one can address an issue or develop an estate i.e. build skyscrapers etc. The second comment that I would like to raise in the text would be that one can hardly utilize the potentials of tradition, as one would prefer to develop potential or utilize potential in developing a tradition i.e. Instead of using “small scale of Hki”, one would express the thought as “The small size of Hki”, as scale is used in maps and when comparing two geographical objects or areas. And I am really sorry about being so picky, but no-one ever calls a person an “it”, it’s outright dehumanising. On the whole, the article offered an interestingly fresh angle to Helsinki’s proposed townscape.

    Best regards

    The Language Purist

  4. Hella Hernberg

    Dear Language Purist,
    Thank you for the comments. I am happy to hear you found the article interesting and have been reading it very thoroughly. As I am not a native English speaker, I try my best but have to apologise for the grammatical mistakes that may appear. However, I’ll bear these comments in mind and see if there is something to correct. As to the third comment about scale and size, as architects we often use the word ’scale’ to describe the density of an area, or proportions of a building, etc. I may be wrong, but I think ’scale’ is quite commonly used in many different contexts also outside geography. In any case, ’size’ would also be fine in this context.