Helsinki is an architecture lover’s dream. There are modernist buildings, functionalist buildings, examples of the Neo-classical, the Byzantine-Russian and the greatest number of Art Nouveau buildings in Northern Europe. And it’s not just design classics of the past that are worthy of your time. Head out in to the suburbs for examples of the latest creations of Finland’s civic architects. High on your list should be the district of Viikki. Here new housing developments are awash with colour and shape. Each block has its own work of art, large, free standing sculptures, images etched in to the side of buildings, structures for children to play on.
Viikki’s place on the design map is not just a recent occurrence. It is the birth place of Arabia, the pottery and ceramics manufacturer, famous throughout the world as it holds a licence to produce Moomin related products. Arabia is now part of the Fiskars group (designers of the classic orange handled scissors) together with Iittala glassworks.
House in the old Arabia factory is a design centre for all three brands and the textile company Finlayson. As well as offering many tempting things to buy, the centre has displays explaining the design process and production techniques within the shop on the 2nd floor as well as a separate museum on the 9th floor.
In the same building you will find other Finnish design brands, such as Marimekko, to browse. Not to be out done by its contents, the modern extension to the old factory building boasts a past winner of Finland’s roof of the year. It would be hard to find more design success in one place if you tried.