The International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (Icsid) designated Helsinki as the World Design Capital for the year

Helsinki Finland: World Design Capital 2012

The International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (Icsid) designated Helsinki as the World Design Capital for the year 2012. The World Design Capital designation is conferred to one city at a time every two years for outstanding use of design as a tool for economic development, as well as social and cultural improvement. Then, it did it again in 2016.

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Helsinki's World Design Capital year 2012 comprised a wide range of events and projects related to design. Although Helsinki is the World Design Capital, the events will also take place in the cities of Espoo, Vantaa, Kauniainen and Lahti which together form World Design Capital 2012. Our theme is Open Helsinki -- Embedding Design in Life. In 2012 Helsinki will also celebrate the 200th anniversary of becoming the capital of Finland, when the country was a grand duchy of the Russian Empire. Although for 2012 Helsinki is the World Design Capital, Finland holds a yearly Helsinki Design Week.

In choosing Helsinki, the World Design Capital selection jury highlighted Helsinki's use of Embedded Design which has tied design in the city to innovation, creating global brands, such as Nokia, Kone and Marimekko; popular events, like the annual Helsinki Design Week; outstanding education and research institutions, such as the Aalto University School of Art and Design and world-renowned architects and designers such as Eliel Saarinen and Alvar Aalto.

Old Customs Warehouse in Katajanokka, Helsinki will be the main venue. The Old Customs Warehouse, or Tulli- ja Pakkahuone in Finnish, is a breathtaking brick building built at the turn of the century to support the rapidly growing city and the increasing commerce flowing in and out of it. Designed by Gustaf Nystrom in 1899, the Old Customs Warehouse is a stunning example of the National Romantic style.

There are more than 1,000 museums in Finland that cater to every conceivable interest. In Helsinki, the over 80 museums include the Ateneum, Finland's national gallery; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Kiasma, designed by American architect Steven Holl and the Design Museum just to mention a few.

Helsinki's several architectural layers are typified by Nordic minimalism and refinement. Modernism, functionalism and the largest concentration of Art Nouveau buildings in Northern Europe make Helsinki a major city of architecture. The Design District in Helsinki is an area full of design and antique shops, fashion stores, museums, art galleries, restaurants and showrooms.

Design is deeply rooted in Finnish culture. Finnish design first came to fame in the 1950s when new mass production methods and low cost materials gave rise to the Nordic design ideology of combining the seemingly contrasting qualities of beauty and function to create everyday objects that are accessible to all.

In today's Helsinki, design manifests itself in many ways. The creative sector is re-shaping Helsinki's economy and enhancing the citizens' quality of life. Design seen from a broad perspective -- in city planning, architecture, industrial design and service design -- plays an integral role in the development of Helsinki, city services and consumer products.

Each year locals and visitors alike have a chance to get up close and personal with world-class Finnish design makers and hear the stories behind their works at the annual Helsinki Design Week from the end of August to early September. Design professionals and the public are invited to events taking place throughout the city, where design is an integral part of everyday life. The Design Week comprises eleven days of exhibitions, workshops, fashion shows, markets and open days in private homes and studios.

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Updated: January 22, 2017

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