Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Design Week Helsinki 2007 #3 the habitare fair

The Design Week Helsinki is running the same time as the HABITARE, the biggest Finnish furniture and interior design fair. Michail Galanakis visited the fair on 23th September:

I waited the last day to visit Habitare 07. Already the reputation of ahead! had spread: this was the part most interesting regarding new concepts, experimental design and fresh outlooks. Most of the pictures that accompany this text are from ahead! and concerned design production companies, design associations and manufacturers (showroom Finland: verso design, secto design, selki-asema, Formverk, Rintala interiors, adora textiles, the Artisans, Designers and Artists Cooperative of Fiskars, onoma art, and more), design schools and their stands (Turku University of Applied Sciences, Lahti Institute of Design, University of Lapland and University of Art and Design Helsinki), and the “container village”. The last was a conglomeration of cargo containers, each housing an exhibit-installation of Finnish or international designers, such as Jurgen Bay, Ola Kolehmainen, Bruno Borrione, Ludi Architects, Ilkka Suppanen, Jasper Morrison & Naoto Fukasawa, and the Diesel Creative team of Renzo Rosso.

My overall impression of ahead! is that once again one of the most favored themes of aspiring design exhibitions was the CHAIR. I find the theme unchallenging although it sells enormously. The Lahti Institute of Design had a conceptual aspiration to present an ambiance as a design
product. Lahti’s room though because of its product vacuum was attracting very little visitors; in other words it wasn’t selling well. In ahead! one could find interesting design pieces with a certain dignity in the use of material, the execution of the design and the purity of the design itself. One could find austere Finnish design furniture and objects, as well as more playful ones by the younger
generation of designers; however, a fair is a fair and all is a consumption trick. Paradoxically, it is when this trick is invested withdifferent layers of meaning that it sells best. I felt this with the
“container village.” All an all ahead! was not that innovative, but it transmitted the tranquil reassurance that things are not stale but rather promising (regarding aesthetics, creativity and economic viability).

Final note: Design for People vs. People for Design
Finland is not famous for its customer services (funny to say that to Greeks who are neither particularly polite). There are instances that justify this ill reputation as well as graceful exceptions. While admiring the exhibits of the furniture manufacturer Piiroinen, I tried the resized classic chair PK1. A metal part in the back rest was protruding and I hit slightly my upper back. The representative of the company came to talk to me. I explained my reserve about the chair. The tired young woman looked at me with her smiling face and told me with the most natural way: your body is wrong for the chair; we haven’t heard this complain by anyone else. She found hard to accept that maybe there was a small design issue to improve especially since the chair was enlarged 6% from the original design.
I am one of those believing that Design for All is a fad, although it does create awareness, especially amongst designers, about our discriminatory misconceptions. However, it is one think to hear that an object is not suitable for oneself and quite another to hear that oneself is not suitable for an inanimate object.

Michail Galanakis, UIAH Helsinki (

See also our great picture album from the fair:

HABITARE, Helsinki 2007


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