In 1873, Design Museum Finland acquired its first 700 objects from the Vienna World’s Fair. Established by the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design, the original collection was put together as study material for the Craft School of Helsinki, the predecessor of the present-day Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture. Today this collection is on display among the museum’s 75,000 objects, 45,000 drawings and 125,000 photographs. While the museum has been on the same premises in Helsinki since 1978, its current Neo-Gothic structure was designed by architect Gustaf Nyström in 1989.
The collection traces the evolution of applied art and design from the second half of the 19th century to present day and includes Finnish classics. The museum’s permanent exhibit is complemented by temporary Finnish and international thematic exhibitions on historical and contemporary design. One such example is the ongoing Ilkka Suppanen show which features the works of the Söderberg Prize-winning designer who has worked with brands such as Artek, Marimekko, Cappellini, etc. Then there’s The Century of the Child, which curates Nordic design for kids from the 1900s onwards. The exhibits include product designs such as the baby high chair 616 by Ben af Schultén and IKEA furniture, and work by famous names such as Alvar Aalto, Kay Bojesen, Olafur Eliasson and Tove Jansson, as well as a look at the Nordic origins of international brands such as BRIO, LEGO and Marimekko.
Information junkies can find data on everything from the material palettes within each collection to a catalogue of the 1,000 designers whose works are on display. You will need to set up an appointment to access in-depth info.
Pick up a functional souvenir from the Design Shop that houses books, kitchenware, puzzles, jewellery and accessories by local and international designers. Look out for products related to ongoing shows. Our favourite section, however, is Design Classics which includes the Aihio Aino Aalto Candle designed by designer Aino Aalto of the Aalto vase fame.