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Sister design cities

Instead of competing with each other as they once did, Eindhoven and Helsinki join forces to support each other’s Design Week events and promote ongoing design exchange. 

By Jeroen Junte / 31-08-2010

Both bidding at one stage to become World Design Capital 2012, Helsinki and Eindhoven are not at each other's throats as you might think. Instead the two cities have been building a strong collaborative relationship to highlight and learn from each other's design cultures. 

This year’s Helsinki Design Week (24 August - 5 September 2010) will have a strong Dutch presence. Among the 19 highlighted major presentations of the official program will be Design Connection Brainport Eindhoven and Freedom of Creation who will both host exhibitions showcasing their areas of expertise. Also Atelier NL – Lonny van Ryswyck and Nadine Sterk - will present a lecture about their project ‘Drawn from the clay’, an award-winning service collection made with clay from the Noordoostpolder in The Netherlands. “We are very happy with these Dutch participants. For an event with an international ambition, the presence of Dutch designers is a must,” says Kari Korkman, director of the Helsinki Design Week.

Happy living
Freedom of Creation is an Amsterdam-based design studio specialized in digitally fabricated objects. “We will give an introduction of our collection of almost 50 products,” says Finnish-born founder Janne Kyttanen, who graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in 2000 and has since been living and working in Amsterdam. “We believe that our products that are digitally manufactured with 3D-printers will draw a lot of attention. But I have no idea whether this will also generate some commercial interest. It will be something totally different for the Finnish, who have a strong tradition of handcrafted design.”

Design Connection Brainport will host the exhibition ‘Design for happy living’, which was also shown at the Salone del Mobile 2009 in Milan. “This presentation gives a broad impression of the diverse design community of the Eindhoven region,” says project manager Ingrid van der Wacht of Design Connection Brainport, a new organisation involving Design Academy Eindhoven, the Technical University, Dutch Design Week and the municipality of Eindhoven. On show will be crafts-inspired designs by Kiki van Eijk but also more conceptual projects like Raw Color by Christoph Brach & Daniera ter Haar where natural colour pigments are extracted from raw vegetables. Furthermore on show will be consumer goods which are manufactured by companies from the Eindhoven region ranging from textiles to metal products.

Trend book
Vice versa, Helsinki Design Week will be participating in Dutch Design Week (DDW) held from 23 until 31 October 2010. Van der Wacht: “This year’s Trendbook of Dutch Design Week, a publication with essays and images focusing on the design trends of tomorrow, will feature 70 professionals from the Netherlands and Finland. Furthermore the Finnish design label Iittala will give a presentation of their collection and will be hosting an exhibition on Oiva Toikka, the prolific Finnish glass designer who has been working for Iittala for more than a century.”

Both the Design Weeks emphasize that this year’s collaboration will not be a one-off. “Eindhoven and Helsinki have much in common,” says Kari Korkman. “Both are medium-sized cities with a strong network in design focusing on an educational, industrial and artistic level. Further collaborations between for example Het Designhuis and the Design Museum in Helsinki are also possible.” Additionally, there will be an exchange of the creative direction and choice of theme of both events. Korkman: “With this, we will exclude the risk of doubling up in themes or presentations. Especially in this period of the year there are so many design festivals: Maison d’ Objet in Paris, London Design Festival, Dutch Design Week to name just a few. We are even considering making ‘the design week’ the actual theme for next year’s edition of Helsinki Design Week.”   

Design Capital
The strong collaboration between DDW and Helsinki Design Week is also a prelude to the year 2012 when Helsinki will become the World Design Capital. Eindhoven and Helsinki were finalists in the bid, with the Finnish capital eventually winning with the theme, ‘The people make the city.' Although the competition was tough, there is no animosity between the two cities. Even on the night when Helsinki was elected as World Design Capital last November in Singapore, delegates from the two cities met at a hotel room after the announcement to discuss further collaboration, comments Pekka Timonen, director of Helsinki Design Capital. “We hope for a strong presence of Eindhoven in Helsinki in 2012. Both cities have much in common, such as a strong design community and a high-tech industry in communication and consumer electronics. But at the same time we can learn a lot from each other.”

This learning process is already in progress. For the last two years, Design Academy Eindhoven (DAE) has been working closely together with the Alvar Aalto University in Helsinki, confirms Annemieke Eggenkamp, director of DAE. “This year we will start a deeper collaboration with the Alvar Aalto University into the investigation on crafts and folkore in textiles. The involvement of the DAE will be to guide the transformation of the Finnish design industry, which is strongly rooted in the cultural heritage of craftsmanship, into the production contemporary consumer goods. We are now teaming up for the start of a combined masters program at the two academies. Student exchanges will be an important part of this new, international study. Dutch students will team up with the Finnish design industry, with companies like Iittala. The Finns on their part will gain knowledge about conceptual and experimental design through working programs at the Textile Museum in Tilburg or the European Ceramic Workcentre (EKWC) in 's-Hertogenbosch.”

Images: City of Helsinki, FOC poster, Design Connection Brainport poster, Oiva Toikka, Design Academy Eindhoven photographed by Norbert van Onna.

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