Learning from Helsinki: meet four visionary professionals behind the city´s sustainable design, architecture and food culture

Learning from Helsinki: meet four visionary professionals behind the city´s sustainable design, architecture and food culture
Oodi Helsinki.
Autor snímku Tuomas Uusheimo

If you are wondering what the post-pandemic era will be like and what will be the key drivers, look at Helsinki. Medium-sized cities might give an insight of what the post pandemic future will look like for all of us. In Helsinki, the revival is driven by openness, shared usage, cherishing tradition, as well as new innovations and solutions related to design, architecture and food.

We spoke with four visionary people from Helsinki in the fields of design, architecture and food. See their thoughts below.

Savoy Restaurant

Helena Puolakka, Owner & Chef Patron, Savoy

With the famous interior, designed by Alvar and Aino Aalto and breath-taking view over Helsinki city center, Savoy restaurant has been for its over 80 years history a place where Finland´s future has been discussed and shaped.

"During its history, Savoy has never been closed before the pandemic, not even during the wars," says Helena Puolakka, the Chef Patron and owner of Savoy. Puolakka´s task has been to sustain the historical restaurant and keep it relevant – an important part of that has been a careful restoration of the original restaurant interior and furniture.

"During rough times, stability brings comfort and hope. We can learn from these historical places that have gone through all kind of challenges, and still exist," Puolakka notes. "There is emotional durability in Savoy – when people enter the restaurant they grow a bit taller. It is because of Aalto´s magnificent work that still today is fresh and valid. It is our responsibility to keep it alive and create a dining experience that meets these standards, at least 80 years more."

Puolakka has missed the meetings and conversations with the international network and her dream is to do an exchange of top chefs from similar places over the world. "We need to cherish what we have. The era of fast trends and disposal culture is over; instead, we want meaningful moments and long-lasting choices to celebrate life. We have gladly welcomed the return of family celebrations, those were what Savoy was originally made for," Puolakka says.


The Glasshouse Helsinki

Mirkku Kullberg, CEO, founder and gardener of Glasshouse Helsinki

Glasshouse Helsinki is a platform for design, arts and craft. The idea is to help the brands grow ethically, sustainably and responsibly. The two-storey department store opened in May in Helsinki city center.

”I am interested in interaction. Retail as a word is so boring, since it is just transaction. Most interesting retail spaces are different kinds of market places, where you can have a conversation and really discover and learn something new,” Kullberg states. ”We wanted to build a community where sustainability is discovered on a human level. Glasshouse Helsinki is all about testing and experiencing the new world of retail.”

Glasshouse Helsinki mixes retail, contemporary art and craftmanship. Part of the Glasshouse is Lokal Store, which promotes the local artisans and artist´s works.

For Kullberg, Helsinki was a dream place to start Glasshouse. "It is the perfect place, it is easy to network, everything works extremely well and you get a lot done in a very short time – but most importantly, it is not too finished and polished as a city - there is space for physical and mental exploration," Kullberg says.Glasshouse Helsinki also helps companies to find ways to grow in ethical ways. ”Humans have always reflected the question of good life. Deeper understanding of the current situation raises questions and brings together values that are indispensable.”



Pekka Littow, Architect, Littow Architectes

The maritime location has long been recognised as an important attraction and a development opportunity for Helsinki. MajaMaja eco-cabins combine the high quality Finnish wood architecture with the latest green technology solutions. The location is only a 10-minute boat ride away from the city center, the destination offers an opportunity to disconnect from daily routines and an educational eco-living experience.

"The era of mass tourism will be over as we know it. People are looking for personal experiences that reflect their values.” Littow sums,” There is a desire to be close to nature but with modern comfort."

Majamaja comprises of only 23 square meters and it has everything you need – kitchen, shower and toilet with closed-loop water system and breath-taking view over the Baltic sea. The cottage was inspired by the practicality, efficiency, and cosiness of boat interiors. "The pandemic has made us consider where we put our energy and time – is it relevant in the new world? We should have more places with multipurpose functions and shared usage. Majamaja type of place can be used as a remote workplace when not used for leisure activities," Littow states.


Helsinki Biennial

Maija Tanninen-Mattila, Helsinki Art Museum

Helsinki Biennial is an international art event that brings outstanding contemporary art to maritime Helsinki. Held in the unique surroundings of the Vallisaari island 12.6.–26.9.2021, Helsinki Biennial celebrates the synthesis of art, nature and the sea.

"Helsinki Biennial has a future-oriented vision, it emphasises responsibility towards art, environment and the city´s residents. Even though the planning started years ago, opening it now makes perfect sense," Maija Tanninen-Mattila says.

The event will have strict framework for the Biennial´s impact on Vallisaari’s diverse environment. The Finnish Eco compass Environment Management System has informed the production and infrastructure of the event. The Biennial will be measured across categories of waste, energy consumption, logistic and mobility to define the goals for becoming entirely carbon neutral event.

Helsinki Biennial presents 40 international artists or groups of artists from both Finland and around the world under the title Same sea. Both local and international artists have collaborated with the city´s communities – including care homes residents and the prisoners of a nearby open prison.

"The entrance is free of charge. The decision was based on democratic and inclusive principles that are welcome cultural enthusiasts and newcomers from all age groups and with all kinds of backgrounds. Artwork and events also span to mainland," Mattila-Tanninen states. "Art and nature heal our souls – take a look at the horizon and breath-in."


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