This summer, Helsinki, the capital of Finland and World Design Capital for 2012, invites to explore and build design. The three northern cities of Helsinki, Tallinn and Pärnu enjoyed an unforgettable Summer University filled with creativity, laughter, Nordic heat and group spirit.
Design was at the heart of the Summer University organised by AEGEE-Helsinki, AEGEE-Tallinn and AEGEE-Tartu. It appeared in creative workshops and inspiring presentations as well as on visits to different houses of art and design. Art was created in every day of the experience, it was drawn on sand and written on fridge door.
There would have been no design without 26 European students from different fields of education. They created in groups a product of innovation and presented it on video. They painted chocolate into beautiful figures on paper and on faces. They showed Helsinki, the World Design Capital for 2012, in photographs full of life and colour.
Innovative work, inspired unwinding
Sauna and the chilly Baltic Sea called for the group as soon as they arrived in the first lodging place. A few brave participants swam already on the first night. Some took a dip also in the beautiful but windy Fortress of Finland, Suomenlinna. The fortress was built starting from 1747 and is nowadays listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It offers a cosy garden-like place for a picnic and a nap.
Aalto University offered Design Factory as a platform for the motivating talk held by Jarkko Tiainen (Wish Bros) and the related workshops. Thomas Hutton (ThingLink) also inspired the group to think creatively. After long days of attentive work the group headed for memorable nights in urban Helsinki. In Kallio they experienced some genuine Finnish pub life with its sudden nudity. Equally odd although less confusing were the legendary Finnish shots called Salmari. The next two nights were spent in somewhat finer bars with a lot of dancing and black dresses.
The Finnish Style
Four days into the Summer University the organisers took the group to an idyllic Finnish cottage in Märkiö. There they got to compete in the Finnish Olympics. Competitors carried a knife, kicked a rubber boot and rowed a canoe. To top the odd Finnish sports they ate traditional Finnish food which made some faces grow long.
Most of the time on the cottage was dedicated to sauna and lake hopping. The landscape was phenomenal, a fine example of Finland. Design was still carried along with a fashion show where people made their clothes. Some Milan style innovations were seen as one group made fancy dresses out of plastic bags, household fabrics and recycled paper. The following night it was time for a long gone Finnish president called Kekkonen to join forces with Santa Claus. He opened the European night with Finland´s national anthem.
Tallinn tells its tale
After a relaxing evening of fire places and marshmallows the group took a cruise boat to Tallinn. Some Finnish organisers who had planned to go home got sudden withdrawal symptoms. As a result, some stayed in Tallinn without a change of clothes and others appeared out of nowhere in a bar at midnight. They were warmly welcomed, and AEGEE-Tallinn had use for help.
In Tallinn the group moved to a different time zone, from German time to that of Southern Europe. Therefore participants had more time for siesta and later mornings, which went well with widespread tiredness. However, while some people were sleeping, others played beach volley and swam with a view of a sail boat harbour. The rest found their way to the beach later, and in Pärnu they would get to swim in a part of the sea more like the Mediterranean.
During daytime in Tallinn the group visited many museums and exhibitions. Tallinn Seaplane Harbour was for instance fascinating with its sailboats, cannons and a huge submarine where one could go in. KUMU Art Museum was also enchanting as ever, and they even had their own guide there. The most enjoyable piece of art was still the city of Tallinn as seen with the eyes of AEGEE-Tallinn’s own experienced guides. They shared tales and ghost stories of Tallinn’s past while presenting the red rooftops of Lower Town. The medieval city is worth seeing with its beautiful old buildings and green park areas surrounding small ponds.
Beach time in Pärnu
For the last two days the FinEst Designers headed for Pärnu, known as the Baltic Ibiza. As one would expect, most of the time was spent relaxing on a beach. The main beach of Pärnu is famous for its clear, warm water and hundreds of meters of sand. Also the weather favoured swimming as it was sunny and about ten degrees warmer than in Tallinn. One of the many activities on the beach was refreshing and delightful fountains under which dozens of people were pacing.
Apart from being on a beach, Pärnu offered lots of walking around the green city. The farewell party was interrupted by an impressive thunder storm which made its own design by turning some unfortunate beach goers into sand sculptures. However, no greater harm took place and it was a proper ending for the sunny Summer University.
To conclude, design was the idea that guided them but they were the ones who made the event memorable. They shared an amazing group spirit and experienced the Northern cultures with warmth. No sauna will be untouched by them.
Written by Sara Myllylä, AEGEE-Helsinki
The pictures used in the article are the courtesy of Tuomas A. J. Pollari, Annika Luure, Eleana Kaplani & Marko Raatikka