December 7, 2012 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
In a disused old railway bay smack down in the middle of Helsinki, a cast-off engine turn table became the foundation last spring for an urban garden oasis, complete with a modern greenhouse and café.
Turn Table, a sort of pop-up urban gardening and activity center in the Pasila railway area of Helsinki, was created by Dodo re, a Finnish environmental group, as part of the Helsinki 2012 World Design Capital, an initiative of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, which every other year recognizes one global city for its accomplishments in utilizing design.
More than a series of events or projects, this year’s Design Capital theme, Embedding Design in Life, was at its core about improving cities by including smart and sustainable design into everyday life. The Helsinki Design Capital’s vision extended the concept of design from goods to services and systems, exploring important solutions for what people really need. Creating successful solutions, they noted, requires curiosity and innovation, global responsibility and transparency.
Consistent with this year’s Design Capital’s theme, the Turn Table garden space was was organized to promote awareness and discussion on the ecological and social aspects of food. The urban garden project included not just the greenhouse, but also an apiary, cultivation beds, a summer café with terrace, and a market. Visitors had the opportunity to buy soil, growing bags, and nursery plants, as well as sample the harvest at the Turn Table’s café.
The World Design Capital’s task, according to Pekka Timonen, Executive Director of World Design Capital Helsinki 2012, was to “highlight the significance of design; indicate the intended usage of contemporary design, and to increase the demand for design. Our projects have succeeded brilliantly in all of these. Helsinki and its partner cities have concentrated on building better cities and initiated development work that utilises design.”
The event space also functioned as an educational center, offering a variety of learning activities, workshops, and special cultural events relating to gardening, urban agriculture, and other sustainable practices like urban beekeeping with a day devoted to harvesting honey on a balcony.
Gosh, I so want to visit Finland! I’ve always adored the iconic Finnish brand Marimekko, and when I was in London this fall for the London Design Festival with the Modenus BlogTour, I got to experience some other Finnish designers including design company Artek, who presented their ‘2nd Cycle’ project at a pop-up café at designjunction. More to come on this subject…