Helsinki is located at the southern end of Finland, along the coast of the Baltic Sea. The city started off as a trading town and gained importance under Russian reign when it was made the capital of Finland. Since then the city has seen rapid growth and development across all realms; it is also the third largest city of Scandinavia.
Helsinki has something to offer visitors through the year. The months from May to September have the mildest temperatures and it is also the best time to enjoy the many outdoor attractions of the city. Some brave the winter temperatures to enjoy the elaborate Christmas lights and numerous Christmas markets and fairs.
Nicknamed ‘Daughter of the Baltic’, the city has the modern infrastructure to match metropolises across the globe, it has still managed to retain a small town ambience. Helsinki showcases both traditional Finnish design as well as modern design innovations, making it a sought-after destination for design lovers.
Live In The Past
In the 19th century, it was in the Siltasaari area of Helsinki that the Finnish trade union movement started. And later in 1887, it was here that the circus came to town.
For 20 years, the Big Top stood tall, under it lions performed and horses pranced, acrobats and tightrope walkers executed gravity-defying stunts and clowns entertained. In 1907, the building was torn down and only the name of the street ‘Cirkusgatan’ (Circus Street) remains to bring to mind the circus that once was. The Scandic Paasi Hotel opened in 2012 at this location to celebrate the neighbourhood’s history and the people that made up its past.
The futuristic white-tile building of the Scandic Paasi is a deceptive shell to the spectacle that it holds within. A multi-coloured striped ceiling, furnishings in playful prints, oversized furniture and lamp fittings designed like spotlights and bright lights bring in the glamour of the circus in the twentieth century.
One wall is dedicated to Siltasaari’s heroes. Posters of Grim the wrestling bear as well as Matti Nurmi the world’s hardest hitting carpenter amongst others take up the wall. The drawing room is cosy with shelves piled with books and photos on the area’s history.
The rooms are divided into three themes – spectacular, leisure and conscious. The décor in the conscious themed rooms is more subtle and elegant. In the spectacular rooms, over-sized arm chairs, vibrant colours and quirky fittings create an ambience to match the theme.
In some rooms, striped wallpaper and silhouettes of tightrope walkers and lion tamers are evocative of the circus days. Customised wallpaper, signage in corridors and outside rooms, artifacts like ceramic clowns in little niches… these are the carefully created details that tie the interiors of Scandic Paasi to its past.
The original city plan from 1906, had earmarked the space for a church, more than sixty years before the first stone for the Temppeliaukio Church was laid here. The Church is situated within the excavated bedrock, which is in the heart of Helsinki.
The roof is a massive copper dome stretched to cover most of the interiors. The skylight appears like it is anchoring the dome to the rock walls, stopping it from floating away.
Natural light flows through the skylight and creates patterns on the church floor that shift as the day progresses. The rugged rock walls, the birchwood benches and the carefully selected tapestry, candelbras and crucifix collectively contribute to the warm ambience within the church.
Once upon a time this space in the Old Market Hall of Helsinki was used to load horse carriages, but that chapter is long over.
The opening of the restaurant, Story in this heritage location heralds the start of a new chapter. The most striking feature of this space is the spectacularly high ceiling, which along with the large windows makes the interiors appear fresh and bright.
Despite the height of the space, the intimate seating arrangements and the use of warm tones like wood, white, beige lend Story a cosy atmosphere. Menus on blackboards, quirky light fittings and chairs in bright blue and green infuse contemporary chic into this historic location.
All Things Design
If there was any doubt about how seriously this city takes its design, one trip to Helsinki’s Design District is enough to squash it. Twenty five streets with more than 200 design attractions that include shops, museums, galleries, studios, cafes and restaurants make up this area. A tour of this vibrant district is a veritable walk through the evolution of Finnish design.
Text By Himali Kothari