Reclaimed – Opening Day

August 10, 2012 Off By JR


Today I picked up a walking tour book from the information desk and toured the oldest part of the city. Beginning at Senate square I was taken through approximately 56 destinations from the “Dome Church” (Helsingin tuomiokirkko) past the senate building, through Katajanokka (a small island by the harbour) and back into the city centre. The map focused on the architecture around me, detailing which architects worked on which projects, and which styles the architecture were. As I have mentioned I am an education student, not an architect, but I can appreciate the design anyway.


The Jugend style was of particular interest to me. Helsinki seems to be, what I understand, full of a combination of this Jugend and Romantic architecture. When I have seen romantic style before it is usually quite over the top, extravegent, but the Helsinki style is not so. It has the same flavours as the romantic styles I have seen, but not slathered all over. Romanticism seemed to be sprinkled tastefully on the buildings, a hint of it here or there. Often it seemed to reflect nature (I hear the Finnish people have a strong connection to nature). As far as styling goes, and from what Finnish design I have seen before, this is clearly a Finnish take on design.

This afternoon the opening ceremony for Helsinki Summer School took place at the grand hall in the Univeristy of Helsinki main building. We were all welcomed by the coordinators of the school and then we “played a game”. Each of the countries that were represented by the students were called in order (beginning with Finland, but then in alphabetical order) and students were to stand to identify themselves. I was curious to know where everyone else was from, and also how many Canadians were there. I believe there were over 400 students in attendance from 60 countries. The number of students ranged from one (in cases like Singapore) to many (I think China, Russia, and Finland are in the highest attendance). Of course I looked around for the other Canadians and there are a few.

This was followed by a beatboxing session by Felix Zenger. I knew we were in store for some beatboxing, but I have never seen any as amazing as this. He literally sounds like a machine! 

This was followed by introductions and welcomes from the President of Aalto University and the University of Helsinki academic director. He made three clear points that struck a chord with me;

  1. Take on the challenge. We are the designers of the future and should work towards our goals with that in mind.
  2. Meet people and make new friends. Our classmates will be a global network of colleagues for many years, and will be important to our own development and as a community.
  3. “See and Feel”. Experience Helsinki as the capital, as a design capital, as a community. (I have not worn headphones since arriving)

After the ceremony there was a reception for us to take on challenge #2. This was continued by the social program that had a couple of interesting ideas for students to break the ice. One was an “interests” form we filled out in advance, and upon attending the welcome party we were given a temporary name tag with a picture on it (mine had a couple of masks indicating theatre as an interest). So we were able to spot students with similar interests. Also each of our regular name tags is colour coded by course, and came with a puzzle piece. There are four distinct puzzles of about 28 pieces each, and students can try to put them together collaboratively. Personally I saw about eight of us, and somehow we were perfect pairs with matching pieces (as in the same!). It was pretty funny.

Class begins tomorrow…

This post was first published on Helsinki Summer School 2012: DETEF, By JR Dingwall at