Scotland, Europe, the world
There’s plenty more to Finland than Sibelius and snow, as Chris Hunt discovers when he starts exploring Helsinki’s impressive design scene.
inland is slap bang between Sweden and Iistonia. with a slice of Norway as its crown. politically guaranteeing an interesting heritage as a link between Fast and West. Having packed for rain. snow and
practicality. l was surprised to arrive in the capital of
Helsinki to a beautiful spring day with clear blue skies. After settling into the Hotel Kamp in the centre of town.
reputed as the best hotel and spa in Finland. 1 found myself
directly in the main square. the Iitelaesplanadi. surrounded by many large stores with recognisable names such as Marimekko. Artek and iittala. Other more widely known names like ‘Fiskars‘ (scissors and knives) and. of course. Nokia have all been key to the British. modernist way of life.
Artek has its HQ in the square above the shop. Founded by the (iullichsen family in 1935 due to international interest in the architect and furniture designer Alvar Aalto. they now export to 26 countries around the world. Sari Holopainen. the tiber stylish export manager. explains to me that Finlandia means simply ’of Finland': 'We always exhibit young new talent from Finland in our showroom. currently we are promoting fashion designers. and this is something Aalto uniquely championed back in the l‘)3()s.' My attention is caught by the famous Paimio chair. named after the Paimio Sanatorium. which is also very
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comfortable. ‘We still create our furniture to Aalto‘s original
and innovative specifications using his unique method of
getting solid wood to curve. It's our trademark.' The word Aalto means ‘wave‘ in Finnish. explaining why his designs are always about ﬂuidity. If you are a design connosieur this place is a paradise. You could check out what exhibitions Artek has planned on its website before you visit. and the store alone is a temple.
The next stop is the famous Aalto-designed penthouse Savoy restaurant next door. which opened in 1937. All the furniture is original — even the swing doors into the kitchen. and it's a beautiful place with six private rooms and a glass terrace open in the summer to the year round views across Helsinki's sky-line. In the main dining room a plaque notes the table where Finland‘s most famous charismatic and popular leader Marshal (‘Gli Mannerheim negotiated his way through difficult war times in the early 20th century. including securing independence from neighbouring Russia. Mannerheim always started his meetings with vodka shots — forcing any who spilt even a drop to have another full glass. Fle Finland consumes 4.5 litres less per capita of alcohol than the rest of liurope. The restaurant still serves a Spanish
'I‘empranillo wine named after Mannerheim and his
favourite dish. ‘vorschmach‘. is still a firm favourite.
Beautiful buildings merge with exquisite art in Helsinki