Helsinki Design Week partners with Virtual Helsinki to create street-long virtual art intervention as festival launches hybrid digital and physical format for 2020

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  • Three emerging Finnish designers will transform Helsinki’s main shopping street with virtual bridges, a river, and facades awash with flowers – all powered by the city’s digital twin, Virtual Helsinki
  • Finnish capital’s internationally recognised design festival to run in a hybrid digital and physical format
  • The event will celebrate the launch of the city’s newly renovated Olympic Stadium, with venue playing host to the main exhibition programme

Helsinki Design Week, the Finnish capital’s renowned multidisciplinary festival, will this year run as a hybrid digital and physical format. Running from 3rd – 13th September its main exhibition programme being will be hosted from the newly renovated Helsinki Olympic Stadium, with a stream of digital events taking the design festival to a wider audience and those unable to attend in person.

Now in its 16th year, the Helsinki Design Week will celebrate the theme Commitment Matters, raising questions regarding how we can achieve and improve on meaning and long-term value in design.

Jan Vapaavuori, Mayor of Helsinki said: “Design is and should be present in everything we do. Now more than ever we must ask ourselves how design can improve lives, create commitment to modern democratic values, promote sustainability and innovation in urbanization, and provide us the tools needed for championing in the post-COVID world. I believe in exposing people to these questions through design. Partnership with Helsinki Design Week helps us achieve that.”

In a partnership with Virtual Helsinki, the programme will include Helsinki Virtual Design Street, a street-long virtual exhibition, transforming the city’s main shopping street Aleksanterinkatu with three installations from emerging Finnish designers. The project will transform the city into a colourful and immersive virtual design experience, featuring the work of product designer Hanna Anonen, graphic artist Matts Bjolin, and fashion designer Fanni Lyytikäinen.

For the duration of the festival, local and international visitors to the virtual city will experience a transformed urban realm, finding themselves in flowing water or standing on grass, under Escher-inspired bridges, or looking up at the street’s facades which have been coloured, and patterned with flowers and moving abstract shapes.

Hanna Harris, Chief Design Officer at the City of Helsinki said:  “Helsinki wants to be the city that pioneers digital innovation to create engaging solutions for the future of our cities. The collaboration between Helsinki Design Week and Virtual Helsinki shows the potential for this kind of technology to not only be a playful, alternative and sustainable way to experience our city, but also demonstrates the impact it can have on how places might be envisioned, designed and managed in the future.”

Helsinki Design Week will mark the launch of the newly renovated Helsinki Olympic Stadium. Designed by architects Yrjö Lindegren and Toivo Jäntti for the 1940 Olympics, the iconic stadium has undergone a four-year refurbishment by Finnish studio K2S. It will play host to the main exhibition; a series of installations on design, architecture and fashion, presenting unique one-off pieces to largescale set ups.

Helsinki Design Week’s Programme Director Anni Korkman said: “As the largest design festival in the Nordic countries, the aim this year is to make Helsinki Design Week as safe and as accessible as possible for Helsinki’s citizens and our international visitors. The newly reopened Olympic Stadium is a fitting location to host the main Helsinki Design Week exhibition and Children’s Design Weekend, but we are also excited to expand our programme into a comprehensive digital – and for the first time – virtual format. We look forward to welcoming visitors from across the world to join the wider discussion on why Commitment Matters.” 

Helsinki Design Week events will include:

  • Climate College, Friday 4th September 

The Climate College introduces leading speakers and viewpoints in the field of urban planning and an eco-friendly future in cities. Mayor of Helsinki, Jan Vapaavuori, will open the day, with Hanna Harris, Chief Design Officer at the City of Helsinki, hosting the session. Registration and information here:

  • Data-Driven Design Day, Tuesday 8th September 

The theme for this year’s event is “Committed to Excellent Services for Everyone”. The full-day conference will share inspiring stories about developing products and services based on data to enhance customer experience and business. You can expect thoughts and practical tips on how to utilize data in design from experts in the field. Information here:
(VIP registration through ING Media.)  

Helsinki Design Week is the latest event to take place in Virtual Helsinki and follows the unprecedented success of the virtual May Day concert earlier in the year. The event saw over 700,000 people tune in live to a virtual gig with Finnish rap stars JVG, totalling over 1.4million views by the end of the weekend. Helsinki, which was crowned as the most innovative region in the EU by the European Commission in 2019 and awarded the European Capital of Smart Tourism in 2019, is at the forefront of technical innovation. With a democratic approach to data and knowledge sharing, the city operates much like a city-wide test bed. By facilitating public and private collaborations the city is demonstrating how policies like open data and digital twins can benefit citizens and visitors alike.

More on Helsinki Design Week

The full design week programme can be accessed here:

Helsinki Design Week, 3–13 September, 2020
Helsinki Design Week has been organized annually every September since 2005. With a festival programme of hundreds of events every year, it is the largest design festival in the Nordic countries. Helsinki Design Week is produced by Luovi Productions Ltd. 

Fanni Lyytikäinen is a multidisciplinary creative mind with roots in the suburbs of Eastern Helsinki. With her studies and background in fashion she has a strong interest in how the arts interact with society and time, and that interest has also brought her to work with research within trends and consumer behaviour in London. As a strong counterbalance, her personal work is off-worldly free with expression and color, with flowing shapes and layers that seem to forget the reality surrounding us. 

Hanna Anonen is a product and spatial designer based in Helsinki. Known for her talent in combining colours with forms, Anonen presents a fresh perspective on Nordic design. Having gained international attention and several prizes, she finds inspiration in everyday and fun items, and she is a skilled designer of simple yet impressive works.

Matts Bjolin is an art director and graphic designer based in Helsinki. His work span from physical to digital surfaces and concepts. Throughout his career, he has worked with a diverse set of clients ranging from international brands to local entrepreneurs for big and small projects. Matts enjoys surprising and contrasting juxtapositions both in his work and leisure, sharing his time between the city and the remote countryside.

More on Virtual Helsinki

The city’s digital twin – Virtual Helsinki – is the result of a long-term strategic view into how the city uses its data, and the culmination of a two year partnership with VR studio Zoan.

The Virtual Helsinki initiative has recreated experiences of the city’s most famous landmarks, including art museum Amos Rex, the home and studio of Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, and the iconic Senate Square in the centre of Helsinki, to provide an opportunity for the city be experienced without the dependence on carbon intensive travel. While VR and 360-degree videos are used as a marketing tool by many destinations, Virtual Helsinki goes a step further, allowing visitors to move about freely in the digital simulation of Helsinki to explore at their own pace and create their own experiences in past, present and future time. 

Helsinki has ambitious goals in the pioneering and promoting of sustainable tourism, aiming to become a carbon neutral city by 2035. In developing Virtual Helsinki, Helsinki recognises the unique role that cities play in creating solutions to enable changes in lifestyles to address the global climate crisis.

Mobile Virtual Helsinki is designed to be accessible as possible; audiences can view the virtual artworks with a smartphone, tablet or computer – VR headsets are not required. Website details:

Helsinki Marketing is a company owned by the City of Helsinki. It is responsible for operative city marketing and business partnerships for Helsinki. Helsinki Marketing interacts with local residents, visitors, decision-makers and experts. More information and materials about Helsinki: &