WDC Helsinki

Tuomas Toivonen's creative take on "embedding design in life"


Created by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, the World Design Capital biennial recognizes various cities around the globe for their successful efforts in urban revitalization, primarily accomplished through innovative design. The 2012 distinction goes to Helsinki—a city Monocle magazine dubbed “most liveable” in 2011—for its continued ability to tap the creative sector as a way of stimulating economic growth. The yearlong celebration will include more than 300 events and programs both in the capital and surrounding cities, including Espoo, Vantaa, Lahti and Kauniainen.

Numerous designers and leaders from Finland’s creative community will take part in the activities, which officially begins on New Year’s Eve with a celebration in Helsinki’s Senate Square before traveling to Milan, Berlin, London, Taipei, Tokyo and St. Petersburg. Offering a glimpse of what’s to come, NYC’s Museum of Arts and Design and Fab will each host a pop-up shop beginning today, stocking a fresh supply of classics and newly-developed Finnish designs. MAD shoppers will only have one week to pick up their favorite items, while the Fab sale will run through 21 November 2011.


One of the bright young minds that WDC Helsinki will highlight is that of Tuomas Toivonen, an architect and musician known for conceptual writings and spatial installations. Toivonen, along with his Now Office co-founder Nene Tsuboi, will build a public sauna to champion Alvar Aalto’s 1925 manifesto on the need to revive sauna culture in Finland. Launching May 2012, the sauna is actually a self-initiated project they will not only design, but also construct, finance and run. On the blog chronicling its development, the duo explains that they imagine Kultuurisauna “as special social and architectural space, a combination of baths with a public space enabling cultural activity, production and exchange.”

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For those who won’t be able to make it to Finland to take part in the public sauna, Toivonen has also designed a limited edition T-shirt for the Fab pop-up ($36), which references Le Corbusier’s polemic take on modernist architecture and the importance for his contemporaries to see what surrounds them in order to truly solve a design problem. The simplified graphic was created specifically for the WDC, and perfectly sums up this year’s theme of “embedding design in life.”