Helsinki Design Week’s former main venue Old Customs Warehouse, 2011
Programme director Hanna Harris discusses this September’s Helsinki Design Week
Helsinki Design Week celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. The largest of the Nordic design festivals will take over the Finnish capital from 4 to 14 September with the theme Take the Leap. Owen Pritchard spoke to programme director Hanna Harris about what to expect from the festival.
This year is a special anniversary for Helsinki Design Week, how will this year differ and what does “Take the Leap” mean?
I think that what is crucial to HDW is the multidisciplinary approach – fashion and architecture are strongly represented and this echoes well the way the design community in Helsinki works.
Interestingly, in these tough times, Helsinki Design Week has decided to grow. The theme Take the Leap is asking the design community to look at how they are moving forward and how they will address the changes in everything from production systems to how design gets used and made.
Can you tell me more about Helsinki Design Weekly, the new official HDW publication?
There is no dedicated design publication here. There is a strong tradition of trade or professional publications, and the universities have some too, but a more general publication for the design community and those with an interest in the field does not exist. I want to do our share of filling that gap there.
Thinking about what design week does – bringing people and ideas together, presenting design work and pushing that work forward – in a way, this publication aims to do that in a different way all year round, which is just another form design week will take. In the years to come, we hope the debate borne by this platform will inform the festival and vice versa.
How will the event engage people with the city? Can you tell me about the new venues you have this year?
This year we are taking over a number of new venues. Over the whole of the festival we will be hosting a programme both indoors and outdoors at a venue called the old abattoir. It is an area that is synonymous with the new food culture of Helsinki. There will be locally sourced design exhibitions there, as well as talks, screenings and workshops and the popular children’s weekend.
It is important to interface the city with the festival. The city is keen to develop that too, through special commissions and exploring city development in a design-driven way – allowing designers and residents to shape the city.
What are you looking forward to in particular?
It is important that something like a design week is relevant for the design community here and stems from their needs and pushes that community forward. But equally it must find a resonance with the residents of the city.
Certain projects take ownership of the city and push it forward. One example of this is our work with Momoliving looking at the modern housing stock of Helsinki, going into people’s homes to educate them and provide design advice. Then there is the new B2B component, a showroom walk over three different neighborhoods over three days.
For design professionals, we will be hosting a seminar with many international participants, in which we talk about the way we communicate and exhibit design.
And then there individual things. Divers will go to the bottom of the city centre bays and bring up what they find there, and there will be a design jury to comment on what they discover. There will also be a gathering of European activists and social innovators, several things from the fashion community and a great architecture programme – Nordic architecture collective South of North will be kicking of their seminar series with us, which will head straight to Venice afterwards. There is lots for everyone.
Discover more at www.helsinkidesignweek.com
Images: Johannes Romppanen, Otso Kaijaluoto