This year, Helsinki will be the Guest City of the largest design festival in Asia, Beijing Design Week. The Guest City status provides Helsinki with an excellent opportunity to showcase its design expertise together with an extensive network of partners. The diverse programme and an installation implemented with JKMM Architects, Marimekko and Wood from Finland will show festival visitors what well-designed everyday life and smart solutions for learning and urban planning are like in Helsinki.
Beijing Design Week is the largest design festival in Asia. It attracts over eight million visitors and almost 10,000 participating designers and organisations from over 30 countries each year. This year, the festival will be held from 18 September to 7 October.
Helsinki’s programme as a Guest City is built on the theme of Designing Better Life. Helsinki is presented as a versatile user of design, building better everyday life and sustainable urban living by using design principles and professionals. The programme focuses in particular on sustainable and smart solutions for learning and urban development, in which design plays a major role.
“The City of Helsinki has been using design in its development for a decade. We are happy to demonstrate these activities in various ways in Beijing. Architecture and design education and cities’ climate solutions are some of the themes about which we have much to learn together and much to give on our way towards future-proof urban life,” says Helsinki’s Chief Design Officer Hanna Harris.
Participating in Beijing Design Week also supports Helsinki’s and its partners’ international collaboration and business opportunities.
“Helsinki’s goal is to grow and develop even further as an international design city. For Helsinki, the Guest City entity offers an opportunity to build a profile as a model city for modern design thinking that recognises the value of design widely. The goal is for the Guest City project to open up new cooperation opportunities for Helsinki-based design companies and other partners. Helsinki has a long history of working with the City of Beijing, and participating in Beijing Design Week is a natural continuation of this history,” says Mayor of Helsinki Juhana Vartiainen.
Beijing is Helsinki’s only official twin city. In 2019, the cities signed a cooperation agreement, the themes of which, including urban planning, environmental protection and innovative cooperation, are also a part of the Guest City programme.
An installation shows the building blocks of good everyday life in Helsinki
In addition to the mostly virtual content, an installation designed by JKMM Architects and titled The Recipes for Happy Helsinki Home will also be built on-site in Beijing. The impressive installation consists of seven wooden cubic spaces. Visitors can walk or peek inside them to experience them with all their senses and gain inspiration from the elements of happy life in Helsinki: Forest, Knowledge, Rest, Play, Sauna, Food and Work. In the middle of it all, there is a communal meeting place, the Square, where workshops and other events will take place during the festival. The installation’s main materials include printed textiles by Marimekko and Finnish timber panels by Wood from Finland.
The installation is inspired by dialogue between Beijing and Helsinki cultures, and it is implemented in close cooperation with Chinese craftspeople. For example, Chinese artist Pan Jianfeng has created Chinese characters for each spatial theme in a unique style.
“The philosophy of JKMM Architects is to create meaningful buildings and spaces that promote empathy and joy in our lives. The Recipes for Happy Helsinki Home installation fits excellently into this way of thinking. The installation focuses on family, spending time together and the functional pieces of Finnish everyday life, which we Finns call everyday luxuries. We are delighted to be able to showcase the simple ways – which people in Finland may take for granted – in which you can build a good life,” says Päivi Meuronen, Creative Partner and Interior Architect SIO at JKMM Architects.
The goal is to keep the installation’s carbon footprint as small as possible. For example, the timber has not been sent from Finland; materials already present in China have been used, instead. A Chinese partner workshop will manufacture the furniture for the Square, and the intention is to recycle them locally after the festival.
Helsinki Design Week is in charge of the installation programme, and it also played a major role in Helsinki receiving the Guest City status in the first place.
“For years, Helsinki Design Week has aimed to increase international interaction between design week events, such as Beijing Design Week. Helsinki has adopted design as a key tool in urban development. It is wonderful to be able to share this with people in Beijing and bring the experts of both cities together to discuss the select themes,” says the founder of the Helsinki Design Week festival Kari Korkman, delighted.
Solutions for learning and sustainable urban development presented at expert seminars and a pop-up school
At two expert seminars, Helsinki will showcase innovations for learning and sustainable urban living that support well-designed everyday life. New solutions for schooling and learning will be presented, among others, by the Helsinki Education Hub innovation centre to open in August; Arkki architecture school for children and young people; Kide Science, a developer of science education for small children; and HEI Schools, the first comprehensive concept that licenses Finnish early childhood education to international markets. Innovative learning environments and new Finnish school architecture will be presented by AOR Architects and JKMM Architects.
China’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2060 has attracted interest in Helsinki’s sustainable and smart urban solutions. These will be delved into at another expert seminar through innovations presented by Helsinki Business Hub and the lessons learned from the international Helsinki Energy Challenge, among others. Helsinki Energy Challenge sought solutions through which buildings in Helsinki could be heated sustainably, without coal and with as little biomass as possible. The seminar will also involve Virta, a developer of electric car charging platforms; XD Visuals, specialised in visual modelling; VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland; and Oilon, specialised in energy and environmental technology.
As a part of the Guest City programme, the Education Division of the City of Helsinki will hold a virtual pop-up school which will include students from both Helsinki and Beijing. At the four-day pop-up school, students will plan the classes’ content together and share ideas and information via virtual platforms. The classes’ topics will be related to Helsinki’s Guest City themes, design education and the goals of sustainable urban development.
Beijing Design Week is organised by Beijing Gehua Cultural Development Group and Beijing Industrial design Center. Before Helsinki, the Guest City status has been awarded to nine cities, the most recent being Mexico City in 2019. Helsinki originally received its Guest City status for Beijing Design Week 2020, but its participation was postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The main partners of the Guest City project of the City of Helsinki are JKMM Architects, Marimekko, and Wood from Finland. Other corporate partners include Helsinki Distilling Company, Gradient Labs Ltd, Teknos, Inno, Moomin Characters, Fiskars Group, and Adi-kaluste, while programme partners include Helsinki Education Hub, Aalto University, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and Helsinki XR Center, Arkki, HEI Schools, and Kide Science. Luovi Productions Oy and TAPAUS have been involved in the production of the Guest City events. The project is coordinated by the Communications Department of the City of Helsinki Executive Office.
Photo: Mika Huisman / JKMM Architects