By Sami J. Anteroinen
This article was published in NORDICUM 6/2009
Christmas came early for Helsinki this year. The city won the coveted World Design Capital 2012 designation in November, almost immediately kicking off preparations for the special year.
World Design Capital is a great honour for Helsinki – as well as the participating cities of Espoo, Vantaa, Kauniainen and Lahti. After all, 46 cities from 27 countries were after the prize that was now given out only for the third time ever.
When Helsinki and Eindhoven were announced to be the two finalists, some faces in Finland turned pale upon seeing the budget the esteemed Dutch design hub had mustered for the occasion: € 136 million, while Helsinki would have to do with a measly 15 million.
The duel of the two cities seemed like the battle of David and Goliath for an instant, but in the end, it wasn’t the money talking. It was more like a matter of perfect timing – the Helsinki Metropolitan Region stands upon the threshold of unprecedented changes and the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (Icsid) chose to recognise this historical moment.
During the coming decade, the Daughter of the Baltic Sea is about to reclaim her shores. As port operations from downtown have been shifted to Vuosaari Harbour, the old areas are now open for development. Helsinki wants to make the most of this opportunity and is seeking to create vibrant communities by the sea, where focus is very much on green values, innovation and quality of life.
But while the waterfront will be totally reinvented, there is a revolution sweeping through the academic world as well. The new Aalto University is the first of its kind in the world; a true “innovation university,” which combines business, technology and design into an education powerhouse.
The new university is named, of course, after Alvar Aalto, an architect and designer of legendary proportions. Aalto once stated that in architecture, nothing is as dangerous as dealing with separated problems.
“If we split life into separated problems, we split the possibilities to make good building art,” he said.
This ideology is inherent also in the formation of the new entity for higher learning. In the competitive environment of the new decade and beyond, one has to be able to pool together resources and embrace a holistic outlook.
It’s a competition of ideas out there – may the best one win.■