I have been interested recently in early examples of social housing projects. There are some famous ones that have been well covered like Karl-Marx-Hof in Vienna, but Helsinki has a good many which are little known outside of the country.
I went to visit one such small gem in the Vallila area of Helsinki it is the Kone and Silta Workers Housing Block nicknamed Apinalinna or Monkey Castle which is a great example of early social housing in Helsinki. It shows how a good design that is well loved can resonate with its inhabitants down the generations.
Although a country with few people and plenty of space, Finland’s capitol city Helsinki being located on a peninsula finds itself constantly constrained for space by the sea. Luckily the city sits above bedrock which is deep and which frequently punctures the ground. So Helsinki has increasingly used its bedrock to tunnel into and create an underground city. Now with over 400 documented underground facilities and 200 more planned, Subterranean Helsinki is probably one of the largest and most comprehensive underground city systems in the world for its size.
The Tij observatory (2019) sits in the Haringvilet Dam, part of the Sceelhoek Nature reserve in The Netherlands which was opened in 2018 to help improve the biodiversity of the water and coastline there. Tij is Dutch for tide which is apt as the building sits just on the shore overlooking the water.
The reserve is a nesting area for Sandwich terns and the building is inspired by the shape of their eggs. You enter the building via a tunnel so as not to disturb the birds nesting by the shore.
Today I went to The Helsinki Design Week Design Market in Kaapelitahdas. It’s billed as the largest design stock sale in the Nordics and its a great place to get a sense of what is going on in the Finnish Design scene. Mainly fashion and product design but food, interiors and jewellery etc was there to see and it was great to see how many future worldwide brands could be bubbling up here.
Rehome are ten student furniture designers from Lahti University. They have designed cardboard and plywood furniture that can be assembled without the need for tools. Because they can be manufactured and deployed quickly, among other things they can be used to help house refugees where an efficient, quick and flexible response is needed. From first concept to implementation this is a really great idea.
They have just been to Milan design Fair so hopefully their ideas will be exposed to as wide an audience as possible.
Last November Finland updated the regulations covering food preparation to allow for insects also, a few days later at our lunch restaurant a bowl of cricket popcorn was served. It actually tasted really good, though I might have had my eyes closed to eat it! There are plenty of reasons why societies that otherwise have social taboos about eating bugs might want to start to change. The moral questions around animal husbandry and slaughter, the environmental effort for the same amount of protein, about 12 times less, makes it attractive as a foodstuff, it’s easy to see why the UN recommended it.
Meanwhile Fazers, Finlands largest Bakery group came out with a bread that had powdered crickets added. Crickets in Finnish is Sirkkä, and so Sirkkäleippä was born. Although the breads rollout is limited to major urban centers in Finland right now due to cricket supply I bought the bread last week and I can say we all tried it and it tasted just like bread! There are about 70 crickets per loaf it just tastes like normal, good quality bread. Crickets as a food is of course not a new thing but powdering it and adding it in a hidden way is a clever idea to get around our western squeamishness and adding a lot of protein to an otherwise normal product.