Written by Tim Bird
Suvi Saloniemi, chief curator of the Finnish capital’s Design Museum, enthuses over the variety of style and ambience of Korkeavuorenkatu, one of Helsinki’s most characterful streets.
Much of central Helsinki’s distinct and special charm can be attributed to the variety of its compact character. Suvi Saloniemi’s place of work, the Design Museum of Helsinki, marks the midpoint of kilometre-long Korkeavuorenkatu, a street that illustrates this clearly. The name means ‘high hill street’, hinting at its rise and dip.
“It starts from one of the most important parts of Helsinki, the Esplanadi park,” she says. “Designed in the French style in the beginning of the 19th century, Esplanadi served as a place to be seen and for people-watching, and is now lined with cafés and design boutiques. The atmosphere of Korkeavuorenkatu changes from one end to the other, but both ends of the street are special.”
Suvi’s academic background in art history and passion for the links between design and visual arts give her a special appreciation of the variety of architecture and atmosphere along Korkeavuorenkatu. “It’s more business-like at the north end, with offices and agencies, then passes the Design Museum, where it changes to a more village-like ambience.”
The Design Museum, one of the world’s oldest, is opposite a small but restful park and is housed in a 133-year-old neo-Gothic former school, making it a senior landmark in Helsinki’s relatively recent skyline. Number 10 trams rattle past the entrance, and the aroma of fresh coffee wafts from the museum’s own café Luomus.
Bustling cafés, such as Latva and Café Succès, renowned for its outsized cinnamon buns, are clustered within an easy stroll, along with Juuri, specialising in a traditional local Finnish menu, and after-work chat-filled restaurants like Lungi. Sea Horse, with its hints of 1930s art nouveau, marks the southern end of the street and is famed for its classic fried herrings.
Suvi satisfies her cravings for antique furniture and exquisite design by browsing in the Fasaani antique store, the Vuokko fashion boutique run by the renowned Marimekko designer Vuokko Nurmesniemi, and Tikau, where Nordic style blends brilliantly with Indian artisanship in an elegant range of mats, lanterns, and other interior items.
Suvi’s career and wanderlust have already led her to spells in London, New York, and Stockholm, and she is a regular visitor to Italy. But Korkeavuorenkatu’s special Helsinki charm remains undiminished.
A graduate in art history, Suvi identifies with her Finnish roots while relishing any chance to travel. Her horizons have been broadened by study and work in several major capitals, but she harbours a special affection for Italy, which offers a cultural, culinary, and climatic contrast to her home country. The Venice Biennale, to be held again from May to November 2017, is always a fixture on her calendar.
Distance: 4,396 km
Flight Time: 7 hours, 35 minutes
Frequency: Daily service