It’s July. Juhannus a.k.a. midsummer is behind us. This is a complicated time of year. Air and water temperatures will (hopefully) rise a bit over the next few weeks. Meanwhile the days are already getting shorter.
This also means that over one half of the marketing ploy that is Helsinki’s Design Fest 2012 is over. Yet, like the middle of summer, the middle of the WDC-2012-year may be the mathematical middle of this year of design-hype but it’s not the middle in any meaningful way. The season is only just beginning!
We expect hard evidence of Finnish design excellence soon, and not just in a canyon left over by a redundant railway line turned over to cycling.
More in evidence and in the advertising has been the “heart” of Helsinki’s design festival. This is the temporary pavilion behind the Design Museum. A daily programme of events (speakers) there has been trying to enthuse people to learn about design since early May, with varying success.
Apart from the fact that it’s been incredibly cold in the space, perhaps the Helsinki public or the tourists who stray that way simply aren’t interested in being preached at. And it’s worth noting that the Finnish version of the website is a tad more heavy-handed than the English-language page about the great things design can do to make the world a better place. Perhaps the copywriters intuit that Panglossian rhetoric doesn’t sound so good translated from the Finnish into other languages.
But don’t get me wrong. We here at JHJ have admiration for beautiful design. We almost even agree with the myth that says Finnish design has grown organically out of the harsh but beautiful Finnish landscape. (And we recommend the recently published Finnish-language history of Finnish Design edited by Paula Hohti so you get the nuance too).
(We also recommend the design show at Taidehalli which, time permitting, JHJ will cover in a subsequent post, but if not, read the Helsinki Times’ inimitable prose [surely not, Ed.?] on the subject here).
But we do find the Helsinki take on design, er, just a little worthy.
There’s too much of the self-congratulatory about it all. For instance, that design is built into Finns’ lives from birth, when they receive a perfectly designed and perfectly functional maternity package to set them up with the best start in life, materially, technologically, culturally… (this is on show at the Virka gallery). And there’s far too much of design solving this, that and the other global problem.
And as if JHJ needs more grounds for scepticism about design’s (or Finland’s) capacity to fix real problems like, say, the Eurozone crisis, the Baltic or social alienation, today’s Omakaupunki publication tells us that the city can’t even get a simple traffic counter to work properly!
For months the city has been making noises about supporting cycling. To encourage us two-wheelers they have been counting our use of three popular routes.
I never was so clear on why being the two hundred and ninety-seventh cyclist to pass Helsinki Railway Station was supposed to feel encouraging, but it never bothered me either. But it turns out that the machine was so badly designed that it has left a third of us uncounted.
Apparently the counter at the Baana cycle corridor, which goes from Ruoholahti and Helsinki’s future high-rise hotel (see previous post) to the field of asphalt between Kiasma, the Sanoma and the Music Buildings, does work. And apparently the route has been popular. (Just watch out as you spill out at the eastern end – I foresee accidents to come here.)
Still, design or not, we hope the Baana will get lots of use in the next few weeks before it gets too dark for most cyclists to venture down there.