Design Museum Helsinki


Most museums in Helsinki charge for admission; while I don’t have any problem with this, it did mean that I wasn’t able to go to as many as I would have liked (again, Helsinki on a budget is doable, but challenging!). Given that Helsinki was the World Design Capital in 2012, the Design Museum seemed like a natural choice. Admission was €10, or €12 for joint admission to the Architecture Museum. I regret not doing joint admission to be honest, given the quality of the Design Museum.


The museum is in the Design District. It occupies 3 levels and even the building itself has some beautiful details.



The main collection is arranged in chronological order, starting in the late 19th century and running all the way through to this decade. What I found particularly lovely about the permanent displays was what a comprehensive view of the objects they provided. They included narrative about the historic economic context for overall design movements, sketches and finished objects. For example, in the 1950s-1960s room, one of the narrative panels mentioned how the production processes changed in response to international competition and the special exhibition mentioned how the 1970s oil crisis affected designers’ choice of materials. I loved the emphasis on functionality in Finnish design; everything was so practical and beautiful at the same time. I also liked that it took a comprehensive view of design. It displayed homewares, furniture, posters, technology (phones), and clothing. I loved it so much that I actually took notes while looking at the exhibition!



1902 sketch of an interior.
1950s stool.
Two 1950s Marikmekko dresses. Isn’t this display amazing?
1960s Marimekko fabric samples.

The special exhibitions were great, too. One focused on Finnish fashion, and the other was Wirkkala Revisited. The fashion exhibition was on Level 2 and benefited from a huge amount of space and light which showed off the designs perfectly. I also think it was clever that they put temporary exhibitions in the most light-filled part of the museum; it is very sensible from a preservation point of view. Wirkkala Revisited was in the basement and focused on how he worked. His sketches were so detailed – I am in awe of anyone who can draw, so I thought they were amazing.

Both of these dresses are made of paper.


One of Wirkkala’s sketches.


2 thoughts on “Design Museum Helsinki”

  1. to me it is already fascinating to compare the exterior of the building to the interior. anywhere else in Europe with that kind of exterior I’d expect to the a much dark and much “older’ looking inside, not a linoleum (or tile?) floor.


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