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Helsinki Design Lab 2010: A Summit Built on History, Focused on Solutions

Beyond its pop art textiles by Marimekko, Artek furniture, and Nokia’s mobile phones, Finland as a whole is a hotbed of innovation, home to highly-educated workers, technologically-advanced consumers and …

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Beyond its pop art textiles by Marimekko, Artek furniture, and Nokia‘s mobile phones, Finland as a whole is a hotbed of innovation, home to highly-educated workers, technologically-advanced consumers and an environmentally-conscious culture. The upcoming Helsinki Design Lab seeks to lure the world’s most progressive designers to a summit in the Finnish capital that’s focused on catalyzing that energy towards some globally-minded change. “We don’t want to export solutions we want to export strategies,” said organizer Bryan Boyer, presenting at Postopolis!LA, a blogging-and-the-built environment confab held in L.A. last weekend. Boyer has hit multiple cities worldwide on his grand tour to drum up support for the event, which will be held sometime in 2010 (a mini-summit was held in 2008 to formulate a plan).

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Helsinki has a fascinating history of such events. In 1968, the Helsinki Design Lab was held on the island of Suomenlinna, featuring notable designers like Buckminster Fuller, Victor Papanek, Kaj Frank and Christopher Alexander in a sort of Finnish International Design Conference at Aspen (check out the sweet photos of Bucky and others commisserating at what looks like summer camp). The theme then was quite forward-thinking: Addressing a new role for design that focused more on products and services–a melding of technology, industry and craft. One of their products was a reindeer slaughtering station prototype, the illustration seen at the right.

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In 1968, the newly-established Finnish National Fund for Research & Development hoped to bring this spirit to Finland’s industry. Now named Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund, is hoping to replicate that spirit in 2010, but this time positioning design as a socially-responsible force. In advance of the summit, Sitra has recently launched the Low2No competition, which seeks block-by-block sustainable solutions for a decomissioned harbor area on Helsinki’s western edge. If a problem-solving sojourn on the Baltic is on your personal itinerary–or maybe you’re just a fan of reindeer (it’s delicious)—watch the HDL2010 site for updates.

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About the author

Alissa is a design writer for publications like Fast Company, GOOD and Dwell who can most often be found in Los Angeles. She likes to walk, ride the bus, and eat gelato

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