In trying to inject a lighthearted note into a deeply troubling series of events, this blog has dubbed the furore around the City of Helsinki’s plans to erect a new hotel on the site of a former ferry terminal “HDHD”. That’s short for “Helsinki’s Design Hotel Debacle”.
So here’s another chance for an image.
From the Planning Department’s own website – it has more too. (The issue goes to the vote tomorrow. Hence this flurry of activity on this blog.)
The word ‘design’ is used in both Finnish and English. But in this context shouldn’t one use ‘designer’, as in ‘designer jeans’ or ‘designer babies’? In Finnish it’s not clear if ‘design’ is a verb or a noun or both. A key-symbol, perhaps, with many meanings, in this land so proud of its design heritage.
I’m not sure design of buildings and design of spoons or knives (puukko or leuku) for that matter, should be captured under the same word. There are those who argue that architecture is quite a special kind of thing these days. In urban policies and politics all over the world architecture is a protagonist and very often the super-star. Jean Baudrillard, for instance has written on this (for a short review of his collected writings on the topic, with a few phrases that really hit the nail on the head, click here).
It’s hard not to see some kinds of precursors for today’s architectural megalomania in places like the square in front of the Winter Palace in St Petersburg or, well, the Pyramids.
I found the 2005 book on the topic of megalomaniac (despotic) leaders and megalomaniac building, The Edifice Complex thoroughly entertaining though I can’t judge its scholarly value. (A fun review here). Appropriately its author is the current director of London’s Design Museum, Deyan Sudjic. I suppose smaller products of design (like the VW beetle, or innovations like the Finnish tiskikaappi) can also have huge impacts on history, but there is something about the longevity, footprint and shadow of architecture which sets it well apart from other design activities. Perhaps I’ll use ‘designer’ then in reference to the hotel.