Cover story Misc

The circus is in town

The Eurovision Song Contest enjoys a healthy popularity and it is more kitsch than ever. Last year there were more than eight million votes (either by phone call or SMS) and the contest is followed by large audiences, even in non-participant countries like India, Korea and New Zealand. Drag queens, monsters, boy bands and the usual melodic singers compete for being the big stars for one year (or day).This year is no exception. 
Verka Serdyuchka, the Ukrainian participant is a controversial drag queen who has raised a great deal of protest in her own country. Angry Ukrainian nationalists held demonstrations across the country against Verka, who was chosen as Ukraine’s entry by an overwhelming majority. The nationalists claim that Serdyuchka is a grotesque stereotype of a stupid Ukrainian villager.

No less controversial is the song by Israel’s candidate. The group is Teapacks and the song is Push the Button. It refers to “crazy rulers” and says that “he’s gonna blow us up to biddy, biddy kingdom come”. Did someone mention Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? The band denies it, but some weeks ago Eurovision spokesman Kjell Ekholm hinted that the song could be banned. Any publicity is good to pull out some votes.

{mosimage}Post-Lordi Finland
After last year's nightmare, Finland decided to choose a more conventional performer in the form of Idols-tailored singer Hanna Pakarinen. She will be the entry for the host country and her song has some strong rock guitars, but the melody is cheesy as only a Eurovision song can be. As host country, Hanna Pakarinen already qualifies to the finals and she will sing the fifth performance of the night.

But Finland does not only face the challenge of delivering a good musical performance. The Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) is in charge of organizing the event, which will be held at Finland’s largest ice hockey hall the Hartwall Areena in Pasila, just a few kilometers from the city center – although YLE wants to name the hall the 'Helsinki Areena' for the event to avoid extra and free advertising. More than forty people in YLE have worked for months in the production of the event that has a budget of around 13 million euros. In spite of all the efforts, there have been some critiques already towards YLE’s work. The promised webcast of the contest draw failed and recently Estonia protested because of the lack of information from YLE about the technical aspects of the stage, the lighting and the sound.

Finnish polarities
The theme for this year’s contest will be “True Fantasy”, which “will embrace Finland and Finnishness in terms of the polarities associated with the country: light vs. darkness, northern fells vs. islands in the south, our strong bond to nature vs. fast technological development, taciturnity against inner strength and creative madness, as showcased by Lordi in an original way,” defines YLE’s Executive Producer Heikki Seppälä.Old national rivalries and friendships will arise again. Cyprus will give 12 points to Greece and Greece will do the same with Cyprus. One more time place your bets! And if you cannot stand the contest, put your earplugs in for the next few weeks.

Cover story Misc

The tigress of the world


Prima donna of the Grand Opera in Paris

Aino Achté was born in Helsinki on the 23rd of April 1876 to Emmy and Niklas Achté. The Achtés were talented musicians, and Aino learnt to sing from her mother. The audiences loved her from her very first performance. Aged 17, Aino was a tall, slender girl with big brown eyes, an exceptional voice, and great skill. She had another important asset as well, namely her mother. Emmy Achté was an ambitious and enterprising woman who had aspired to an international career herself, and studied in the conservatories of Stockholm, Dresden and Paris. It was the Paris Conservatoire she now chose for her daughter: it represented the absolute élite of the French musical scene, and could launch a successful student into fame.

Having passed the entrance examination with flying colours Aino studied at the Conservatoire for three years (1894-7). Her diligence and ambition were soon noted, but the competition was intense, and Aino's surname made her the butt of jokes as its French pronunciation resembled that of the word "achetée" (bought). "Excusez-moi, mademoiselle Achté, mais est-que vous êtes déjà acheteé?", one of her teachers would often say, eventually leading Aino to change the "h" in Achté to a "k", Ackté.

Regardless of the name, Aino's studies were a success. At the end of her third year she won the first prize at the annual competition of the opera class. This secured her a place at the Grand Opera of Paris, or the Théâtre National de l'Opéra as it was known at the time. Her début role as Marguerite in Charles Gounod´s "Faust" was a triumph, and the Opera eventually came to sign her for six years (1897-1903), during which time she made several recordings.


A cultural ambassadress

Ackté and the painter Albert Edelfelt were considered unofficial cultural ambassadors of Finland. At the Paris World Exhibition of 1900 the young prima donna had an active role in organising concerts of Finnish music. Her diplomatic skills and intimate knowledge of Paris helped ensure the success of the Finnish Pavilion, and thus consolidated for their part the idea of Finland as an autonomous cultural entity.

Ackté and Edelfelt, who had observed his young compatriot's career from its start, were friends, and Edelfelt painted a number of portraits of her. Back home, the two might have been rumoured to be more than just friends, but in the eyes of the Parisians Ackté was exceptionally celibate. Her private life gave little cause for gossip. In fact Ackté had been secretly engaged to Heikki Renvall, a fennoman lawyer, since 1896. Her mother and the Opera were against the marriage, as it was thought to be an impediment to her career, but the couple eventually married in the spring of 1901. Later that year Aino gave birth to a little girl, and in 1908 the Ackté-Renvall couple had a son. The marriage ended in divorce nine years later, and in 1919 Ackté married the general, Governor Bruno Jalander.


{mosimage}Disappointment and success

The Metropolitan Opera had been courting Ackté for some time when in 1903 she finally had the chance to disengage herself from the Grand Opera. The Americans signed her for two seasons, but the experience proved to be a disappointment. The competition was even fiercer than in Paris, the audience favoured the Italian style of opera, and Ackté could not reconcile herself with the language, the magazines' practice of reviewing performances (in exchange for bribes), or the American lifestyle in general. She missed Europe, Paris, and the civilisation she was accustomed to.

Ackté returned to Europe, and started increasingly to tour the great stages of England and Germany, singing parts from Wagner's "Mastersingers", "Lohengrin", "Tannhäuser", "Flying Dutchman", and "Siegfrid" as well as Puccini's "Tosca" and Massenet's "Thaïs". Her greatest success, however, was in the role of "Salome". Ackté had heard of this new, challenging opera by Richard Strauss already in 1906. Strangely transfixed, she studied the part zealously under the composer himself. Not only did she study the music, but she also secured a famous orientally styled dress (designed to give an illusion of near-nakedness) from the foremost fashion house in Paris, and worked out a choreography for the "Dance of the Seven Veils" with an expert of ancient on Greek dances. It was all for one goal: Ackté considered Salome the role of her life, one that could make her the No. One opera singer of the world.

The 1910 performance of Salome in Covent Garden finally obtained Ackté the climax she had longed for. The opening night was a high society event, and Ackté delivered on all the expectations. The audience was absolutely entranced by her dramatic, passionate Salome; the clamour of the crowd forced the curtain up sixteen times, and the stage overflowed with flowers. The reviews called her a cat, a tigress, an enchantress, a Woman, a pure sensation, and reportedly Strauss himself told Ackté that she was the best Salome in the world. 

Pioneer of the Finnish opera

Ackté's international career came slowly to an end at the eve of the First World War. She continued to give occasional concerts abroad, but on the whole the war made it easier for her to gradually retire from the stage. She now turned her attention fully to the needs of the Finnish opera. 

Finnish opera had experienced a golden age in the 1870s, but since then there had been only a few irregular groups performing at their own expense. There was, and had been for years, talk of a national opera, and Aino Ackté decided to turn the idea into reality. In 1911 Ackté, together with Edward Fazer, Oskar Merikanto and others, established the Kotimainen ooppera – Inhemska operan, renamed in 1914 the Finnish Opera, and today known as the Finnish National Opera. Ackté brought her artistic abilities, international style and glamour to the new house while her mother acted as singer, teacher, and artistic director. The first performances were a success, but the artists perceived Ackté to be rude and arrogant. She became entangled in bitter disagreements with the other founders, and was forced to quit the enterprise.

After leaving the Kotimainen ooppera Ackté began to organise international opera festivals in the historic castle of Olavinlinna, Savonlinna. The setting was perfectly beautiful, St. Petersburg only short distance away, and the town teemed with summer guests seeking amusement. "I wish to offer artistic experiences also for those people who have never in been to opera", Ackté explained to the press. She organised the festival successfully during the years 1912-1914, again after the war in 1916, and finally in 1930, when she also gave her last public performance. In 1938 Ackté was invited to become the director of the Finnish Opera, but after one glorious season, and renewed quarrels about budget, she resigned the post.

Aino Ackté died of pancreatic cancer on the 8th of August 1944. Savonlinna and Helsinki have streets named after her, and the City of Helsinki owns her summerhouse of 40 years, Villa Aino Ackté, which has been restored to its original appearance.

Cover story Misc

Play your part!

Making films inside videogames has been a growing trend since the advent of 3D games in the '90s. Quake was the first videogame to give freedom and powerful resources to creators bringing hour long movies with custom built sets, special effects, graphics, real voices, sound effects and music could be created.

As the game engines, tools and 3D hardware improved and better and more diverse games were released, the popularity of making movies with games increased. Today, this trend is known as machinima, a term that defines both a production technique and a film genre. Machinima (pronounced: muh-sheen-eh-mah) is a combination of filmmaking, animation and game development. It is movies made within a real-time, 3D virtual environment, often using 3D video-game technologies.

Machinima takes the basics of real world filmmaking into the virtual world of the game. Pre-production is needed to prepare the screenplay, the storyboard, the sets, the characters and camera positions. Once everything is ready, filming can start.

Ready! Action! Go! The game starts when the players with the game controllers, instead of playing it, perform their role in the movie, as any other actor. The shooting of the movie can be through network playing. Machinima makers can also produce the movie on their own by using automated script and other tools, usually provided by the developers of the game. After the shooting, a period of post-production is needed for editing, adding special effects, music and sound.

This technique is much faster and cheaper to produce than traditional CGI animation. Sets and characters can easily be changed and there is no need for expensive hardware and software tools. The films are quickly spread over the Internet and community forums. Machinima fans created the Academy of Machinima Arts and Sciences, where one can watch, create and share a variety of films.


{mosimage}Popular series

The most popular 3D games provide the scenarios for machinima works. Rooster Teeth is one of the most popular machinima community websites. They are the creators of The Strangerhood, a sit-com based on The Sims 2, where a bunch a Sims is gathered in an apartment for unknown reasons. Based in the game Halo, Burns has created Red vs. Blue. In this series nine intergalactic soldiers are stuck in a non-descript landscape. They are supposed to fight each other, but they wonder why they are there in the first place and joke about profound matters.

Grand Theft Auto, Second Life, Unreal Tournament and almost any 3D game can be the environment for a machinima work. As computers get more powerful, more people join the community and this goes mainstream. Several producers are already selling DVD of their films and series. If you play it, film it!

Machinima films can be watch at


Cover story Misc

Am I just a CC for you?

Is always sending e-mails an innocent action aimed at providing and exchanging information among co-workers? Answers to that question have recently been published in interesting study by Karianne Skovholt, who is a PhD scholarship holder at BI Norwegian School of Management. She affirms in her conclusions that under cover of simply wishing to provide information, employees can obtain support and exert pressure on the primary recipient.


“Employees can use an email’s cc function to position themselves in the organizational hierarchy under cover of simply wanting to provide information.”

Karianne performed her research by gathering more than 700 mails collected from an international company based in Norway. What was discovered is that the workers “rank” recipients, depending on how positively they think about them before sending the message. If they considered them as 'less relevance', they are copied as CC instead of in the “To” main field. This would follow the basic rules of a normal conversation in real life, where you have the speaker, the person who is addressed to participate directly, the participants and the listeners who do not take direct part in the discussion. People follow the same patterns when communicating in the cyberspace.


Next time you receive a general copied mail at your office, pay attention if you appear as CC or not. It can give a good idea about how the sender takes you into consideration.

Cover story Misc

A postindustrial fairytale

By the end of the eighties the industrial production had moved out of the area. Ruoholahti was rebuilt into a residential area and City of Helsinki planned to demolish the charismatic building. Artists and architects, who had rented the space there in search of a quiet working place and cheap rents, persuaded the City of Helsinki to keep the building in its original form. Nowadays it is a distinguished cultural centre that hosts around 800 events annually and is the working place of 100 artist and 70 bands.


Since last summer, the Cable Factory has a new landlord. Born in 1972, Tuomas “Stuba” Nikula is the new Managing Director of Kiinteistö Oy Kaapelitalo, the company behind the Cable Factory building whose turnover in 2005 was 3.5 million euros. As any other landlord in the world, the current duties concerning Kaapeli are to “fix the building and rent the space”, as Stuba himself explains. Kaapeli itself is not devoted to cultural production, “That is left to our tenants,” continues the director.

{mosimage}From his position Stuba Nikula gets a good overview of today's Finnish culture. "It seems that for anything to be good it has to be exported, but to achieve that goal more work is needed and more spaces for the youngsters and newcomers.” In a world where influences travel within one second, for Scuba a challenge for the future is “to keep the Finnish touch in our cultural production and, for that, public money is needed.”Meanwhile, the Cable Factory is “fully booked” for long time agreements. “Contracts are permanent and only two or three tenants out of 100 moved out every year. The population here is getting as old as the building,” Stuba jokes. For the short term rentals the calendar is already opened for 2009. If you plan an exhibition or a fair, hurry up. The space and dates are booked on a first come, first served basis.

Cover story Misc

The new Noah’s ark is in Norway

The vault will consist mainly of a chamber excavated 120 meters
inside a rock. The location has been carefully chosen in a mountain
130 metres above sea level, so the risk of global warming has been
also taken into account here.

project became possible after the International Treaty of Plant
Genetic Resources came into force. The construction of the vault is
funded by the Norwegian government, which is pretty much involved in
the project. The construction is carried on by The Global Crop
Diversity Trust, and
they plan to finish the work fast. The construction is due to be
completed by September, and the vault will be functional by winter.

how is this seed bank different from the other 1.400, which exist
around the planet? Well, for one thing, the massive collection of
samples that it will store: over 3 million. Svalbard will become with
much difference the largest collection in the world. The system will
operate like this: samples are sent in “black boxes” that are
stored in the vault. The boxes are not opened there and no other
breeder can use them, unless all other seed sources are destroyed. If
that happens, then the samples in Svalbard can be released.
Permafrost and thick rock will ensure that, even without electricity,
the samples will remain frozen.




Hope in the middle of nowhere


Although, collecting the samples will not be a problem for those
hypothetical survivors (in a hopefully faraway future apocalyptical
time), reaching the vault might be quite a difficult task. The
construction is located in quite a remote area: Svalbard is a group
of islands nearly a thousand kilometres north of mainland Norway. For
nearly four months a year the islands are enveloped in total
darkness. And if you wonder about security measures, nature and the
Norwegian authorities are making the “Doomsday vault” like a
fortress: access to Longyearbyen is effectively limited to one plane
flight a day and the occasional boat during summer. Freezing
temperatures, ice flow (and waters), polar bears, camera
surveillance, and the inherent security of a reinforced underground
location with locked vault-like doors combine to present a formidable
obstacle to any kind of attack or mischief. Unfortunately, the
designers cannot guarantee the vault withstanding the direct impact
of a nuclear bomb.


Cover story Misc

The man who conquered the land of fire

In 1953,
geologist Väinö Auer returned to Finland from Argentina, the land where he made
most of his expeditions and discoveries. At that time, he was already very
pessimistic about how technological progress and modern life were affecting
nature and climate. It was 25 years since his first trip to Tierra del Fuego.

Väinö Auer
was born in 1895 in
Helsinki, at that time still a part of the Russian Empire. Although his first
steps in the University were in botany, he ended up focusing on geology and

In swamp
research, Auer was the first to use pollen analysis in Finland as a relative
timing method, and also started to investigate the geohistorical periods of
Vanajavesi, a lake/river near Hämeenlinna, regarding the layout order of beach
swamps. This classic study from 1924 built the basics for Finland’s limn geologic
lake researches.

However, it
was very far from Finnish soil where Auer made his finest researches and
expeditions. On the 15th of August of 1928, he started his first trip to the
very remote places of South America: Tierra del Fuego (Tulimaa) and Patagonia.
Other members in the trips were
Ernst Håkan Kranck, Heikki Roivanen and Esa Hyyppä. They arrived to
Punta Arenas, Chile, on the 16th of November.

The main
purpose of the trip was to practice studies of
stratigraphy (the study of rock layers and layering) in the swamps and the connections between this and the climate changes
of the Holocene period. To its surprise the group discovered in the swamps of
Tulimaa three layers with sediments of ashes, results of volcanic action. This
finding helped to define the development of the swamp surface. It was possible,
then, to show the changes in vegetation over 9,000 years.

As Väinö
Auer advanced into Tierra del Fuego, the expedition got adventurous. On
February of 1929 he left from Punta Arenas to unknown waters. Sailing with a
small boat in troubled waters near the glaciers, the expedition managed to find
a couple of new fiords in the area of the Darwin Mountains. They were named
after famous Finnish people, such as former president Lauri Kristian Relander
or J.V. Snellman.

Later that
year, Auer returned to Finland where he started a career as professor at the
University of Helsinki. However, the call of fieldwork was strong and in 1937
he decided to get back in action. From Kotka he left for Buenos Aires and the
unexplored territories of Patagonia.



During the Winter War (1939-40), Väinö Auer served as volunteer in the battlefield
against Russia. However, his major contribution to this period was in literature.
Along with Eino
Jutikkala, Auer received instructions to write a book about the historical and
geographical reasons why Eastern Karelia belonged to Finland. The result,
published in 1941, is Finnlands Lebensraum
(Finland’s living space). It was
written directly in German with the intention of convincing the Nazi German war
ministry of the necessity of returning Eastern Karelia to Finland once Germany
had invaded the Soviet Union.

The provocative
name of the book, though, was an invention of the German publisher. Auer and
Jutikkala’s original was
Das Geographische und Geschichtliche Finnland (The
Historical and Geographical Finland).


Side by side with Perón

After the
war, Väinö Auer received the call of Argentina’s President Juan Domingo Perón.
He was called to resolve the problems of erosion and dryness in the farming
fields of Argentina. He referred to this problem as the “Desert devil” (
Aavikkopaholainen). At that time his
whole family moved to Argentina.

Argentina, the Finnish geographer became a significant influence in the
community, which helping to breed a new generation of scientist, as well as
completing his official tasks in the Ministry of Agriculture. However, homesick
and disappointed with the scientific community and current technological
progress, which was harming the environment, Auer returned to Finland 1953.
There he took again his position as professor at the University of Helsinki. He
died in this city on the 20th of March,1981.


Documentaries, books and a street name

In spite of
his great achievements, Väinö Auer remained one of the less well-known
scientists in Finland, although a street in Kumpula is named after him (Väinö
Auerin katu). The main source of information about his thoughts is his diaries;
but, in the last years, two important works have brought a new perspective of
Auer’s life and work.

Pentti Alhonen and Antero Alhonen have recently published the book Vaakavarren ratsastaja, a comprehensive
study and biography of Väinö Auer. In 2001, film director Mikko Piela started
following the steps of Auer from Finland to Tierra del Fuego y Patagonia. The
result is a documentary based on the geologist’s diaries: Väinö Auer (1895-1981). “For filming the documentary”, recalls
Piela, “we did a couple of expeditions to Tierra del Fuego with our cameras. It
was a great adventure to sail on small boats and film in those remotes places”.
For the director, Auer was an ambiguous person. “He drifted from strong
nationalism to a major concern about global problems, which made him very pessimistic
in his latter days," Piela says.

Cover story Misc

Porn is in the air

Maybe names such as Laura, Mr Lothar, Eve
X, Rakel Leikki, Mariah
or Henry Saari do not ring a bell to you… or maybe
they do. Undoubtedly, porn and sex industry are not a marginal side of society
anymore. As an example, there are 3 big sex festivals, called Sexhibition, all
around Finland:
In Oulu, Turku
and Helsinki,
being the latest the most important one, with a number of visitors that oscillates
between 25,000 and 35,000. We are talking about the same number of visitors
that could go to the biggest Book Fair of the country, so … do you still
believe that sex business is not mainstream here?

An industry not
much openly discussed, but massively used

Go to any of the most popular chat rooms in Finland, such
as Suomi 24 website. Sex rooms are overwhelmed by visitors; meanwhile the others
are almost empty. Not exactly that people overcrowd the gardening chat rooms…
Young people want it fast and want it wild, so why to waste time and money
going to a club, when you can hit on somebody from your computer? Or take a
walk around Kallio neighborhood, and you will see the huge amount of sex shops
every few meters offering all kind of films and products. It could be that sex
industry is not still a subject of massive study at serious academicals circles
but… maybe the trend should start to change soon.

Vesa Riihinen,
who is the responsible for the biggest porn magazines publishing company in Finland, Press
Masters, with approximately. 40 % of market share, explains to us “There are
approximately 20 000 different readers/month on our for magazines Kalle,
Jallu, Lollo a
nd Ratto, and in our on line service there are about
2000 visitors per day”.

{mosimage}Different ways
of making porn.

As most of the people involved in Finnish
porn film industry assures, this is a small country with a small market, so
everybody knows everybody at the end. There is not much space for launching
dozens of films a year as in USA market, so apart from the mainstream and more
classic porn movies, where the biggest and most demanded names by the audience belong
to Rakel Liekki and Henry Saari (better known as “Henry the
King”), there is a big trend towards the home-made and amateur porn.

Basically, the new genre consists on
recording sexual encounters with an amateur video camera, and with no other
effects or crew collaborating during the shooting. As Mr Lothar,
stripper and porn actor, who has filmed dozens of encounters during his
wanderings all over Finland,
explains to us, “It is a fast way for many girls to get some extra money. Some
of them appear only once, and some others become part of the business. With
some of them I just spend few minutes and some others have fun and stay with me
for the whole week”.

Most of the actors contacted in Finland are
quite proud and happy of what they do, out of the image one could have of
“sexual and manipulated objects”. But hey, being in the business can have also
many others unexpected risks. As Mika Erkillä, organizer of Helsinki
Sexhibition, remembers: “Once a Czech stripper fell from the stage during a
performance. It was a 2 meters fall and we were quite worried he could have got
inured. Fortunately, no serious damage happened”

And well, if you feel like testing your wild
side, and are not shy of performing some hot games in front of the crowd, in
next Sexhibition they prepare a lot of interactive games with the visitors in
their “Corridor of Activities”, such as “New Twister” and “New Poker”…

Radical Production, settled in Tampere, is another
company that has gained reputation very fast for their amateur videos, even
exporting outside Finland.
As lead actor, they feature Jeppe, a guy who looks more like the fellow
sitting close to you at University classrooms than a “sex machine”.

For many of you, these names were already
well known, and for many others who will go directly after reading this article
to Google and Internet pages, we can just say: Enjoy yourselves with the
national product!

Cover story Misc

The line of democracy

The red
line is a symbol of democracy. On the 15th and 16th of
March of 1907, every citizen in Finland aged 24 and over was able to go to the
nearest village to put a red line in the box of their choice on a ballot paper.
It was the first time universal suffrage was enacted in the parliamentary
elections and was also the first time in Europe that women were given an
unrestricted right to vote.

In 1909, writer Ilmari Kianto dramatized these events in his social
drama Punainen Viiva (The Red Line). The novel became one of
the main stories in Finnish culture. In 1978, Aulis Sallinen premiered an opera
of two acts based upon it and became a great success in Helsinki, Savonlinna,
Stockholm, Saint Petersbourg, London and New York. It remained as one of the
greatest contemporary Finnish operas marking a period of opera renaissance in Finland.
At the time of its premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, in
1983, critic Donal Henahan wrote for the New
York Times
: “
be quick about it, Aulis Sallinen's The
Red Line
is the best new opera I have heard in many a year.”{mosimage}

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of those first universal elections
and the Finnish Parliament, the Finnish National Opera just premiered a new
production of The Red Line, directed
by Pekka Milonoff and conducted by Mikko Franck.

As Kianto’s novel, the libretto of The
Red Line
tell about Topi, a poor crofter that lives with his wife Riika and
his children in the bleak north Finnish backwoods.
They are beset by a marauding bear
and oppressed by an indifferent society. An agitator whips up support for
social democracy by telling people that if they draw a red line on a ballot
paper, they will be free from oppressed misery. But it is a promise that will
not happen and the bear will return.

Pekka Milonoff describes the story as having relevance even today: “Rapid
changes, globalization, decision-making moving ever further away from the
people: all these things erode our belief in an individual being able to make a
difference.” Aulis Sallinen too does not think the opera is outdated: “Free
elections, self-evident here, are anything but self-evident in many places in
the world today. One of the main themes of the opera is the manipulating of
human minds. There are several spheres of power involved, vying for control
over the souls of men.”

{mosimage}Touching music

sounding derivative, the music of Punainen
combines different styles. The orchestra during these performances
will be conducted by Mikko Franck. It will be his final production as general
music director of the Finnish National Opera after he recently resigned due to
differences of opinion within the management. Franck, who is only 27, was the
youngest conductor appointed to that position. As a matter of fact, he was not
even born when Sallinen premiered this opera for the very first time.

“The last
scene is very touching”, admits Franck about The Red Line. “When that last scene comes, one wonders how this
tough guy can conduct the orchestra without crying.

As in 1978,
the main role of Topi will be played by Jorma Hynninen. He is one of the
greatest baritone singers in Finland. During the 1980s and ‘90s he made guest
appearances at many of the world’s esteemed opera houses, including the
Metropolitan in New York. Hynninen admits that, “It feels good to be in the
same role as it brings lots of memories.” However, he sees this new production
like a different approach to the story: “Different directors have different
ways and Pekka includes more happy and relaxed moments.”

Cover story Misc

Cartes Flux vol 2

From 17th to 24th of April, Tapiola, Espoo.



Cover story Misc

Is Gaia angry at us?

You have probably heard about the Gaia Theory, whose name was
given by the famous writer William Golding, but who is the man behind
it? His name is Lovelock, James Ephraim Lovelock and he happens to be one of the most controversial scientists of contemporary


NASA's genius inventor

Lovelock was born on July 26th, 1919, in Letchworth Garden City in the
United Kingdom. His curriculum is quite impressive: He graduated as a chemist
from Manchester University in 1941 and in 1948 received a Ph.D. Degree in Medicine
from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In 1959, he also received
a D.Sc. Degree in Biophysics from London University.

However, his major achievements began the following decade when
collaborating with NASA. “In 1961, having heard of these new detectors, NASA
invited me to join with the team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who were
developing lunar and planetary landers,” he explains. “Initially, the
invitation concerned the development of methods for analysing lunar soil but
soon I became involved with NASA's quest to discover whether there was life on

Lovelock has developed more than 50 patents of different gadgets, mostly
for detectors for use in chemical analysis, and NASA has even used some of his
inventions in different explorations. One of these, the electron capture
detector, was key in the development of environmental awareness, since it
revealed for the first time the ubiquitous distribution of pesticide residues
and other halogen bearing chemicals. It has also helped to discover more about
the levels of nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere. This
information enabled Rachel Carson to write her famous book Silent
Spring, a milestone in understanding and raising the awareness of
environmental problems in society.

His proposed approach to searching for life on Mars, based only on
chemical analysis of the Martian atmosphere, led to reflections about the
utterly different and remarkable atmosphere of our own planet. The stable
persistence in the Earth’s atmosphere of gases that quickly react with each
other could only be possible with some kind of ‘control system’, thus the Gaia
hypothesis was born.


From hypothesis to theory

So what is the Gaia Theory about? In Lovelock’s own words, “Gaia
is a theory about the Earth. It sees it as a self-regulating system keeping its
climate and its chemistry always comfortable for whatever is the contemporary
biosphere. Its major difference from older evolutionary theories, such as
Darwinism, is that it sees organisms not just adapting to the environment, but
changing it as well.”

Encouraged by Margulis, the theory was first publicly mentioned
in an article by Lovelock: Gaia as seen through the atmosphere in the Journal
Atmospheric Environment and was totally ignored during the first years
until publication in 1975's book The Quest for Gaia.

It is curious that the name of the theory did not come directly from
Lovelock, but from his good friend and neighbor, the famous writer, William
Golding. He commented to Lovelock that if he would have ever had a good theory
about the Earth, he had to find a suitable name and there was nothing better
than the Greek goddess Gaia.


Let’s go nuclear!

If you expect that Lovelock had softened his position and ideas with the
age, you could not be more wrong. Quite the opposite, the English scientist, now
in his 80s, has become even more aggressive in his words with the passage of
time. His most recent book The Revenge of Gaia, which offers quite a
pessimistic view of the heating process that the Earth has been suffering, is good
proof of his unwavering opinions.

Lovelock does not see much hope in a continuation of the balance on
Earth. Our planet will become more inhospitable during the next 100 years, and
natural disasters will lead to most of the human civilization perishing. However,
Lovelock sees this apocalyptical future as just a natural way, “Too little too
late? It may be too late to save civilization, but people will survive and
there will be another one.”

As almost the only solution, Lovelock energetically defends nuclear
power as the most effective way to solve problems, thereby following the French
model. He considers that people’s fears of nuclear power are unreasonable.


Controversial figure

Often, Lovelock’s theories are criticized and people are advised to
approach his theories with sceptism. For example, even though he invented the
machine that helped us understand the dangers of CFCs, he also dismissed those
dangers by arguing that they couldn't do enough damage to matter. Sherry
Rowland and Mario Molina received the Nobel Prize for continuing
their research and ignoring Lovelock’s lack of concern, highlighting the fact
that the science community does not take his theories for granted.

His thoughts have encouraged open debate and there are many recognized figures
who openly disagree with him, such as For Doolittle and even Stephen
Hawkins himself. One thing is for sure though, the Gaia Theory involves such deep and
controversial thoughts that it will continue to be discussed for many years to
comes…unless Lovelock’s worst predictions come to fruition.

Cover story Misc

Meet Mr. Finland – the czar’s swedish-speaking spy

Baron Mannerheim is the man without whom Finland might have wasted decades
as part of the Soviet Union. He is the only
man ever to be named Field Marshal of Finland, but then, the Republic has known
no other Commander-in-Chief in times of war. In fact, Mannerheim’s bio reads
like a crash course in Finnish independence. He was there for it all. He led the
government troops to victory in the Civil War, united the nation in two wars
against the Soviet Union, and finally expelled
the German army from Finland
at the end of the Second World War. And saving Finland was something Mannerheim
only took up after retiring from the Russian Army at the age of 50.


Mannerheim: the controversial national
Over the years, Mannerheim has inspired awe in many Finns and foreigners. One
of his ardent fans is Matthew Kirk, the former British Ambassador to Finland
(2002-2006). Now Vodafone’s director of external relations, Mr. Kirk still has
fond memories of the time he lived just down the road from Mannerheim’s house
in Kaivopuisto.

“One of my favourite things about Mannerheim actually
is the fact that he never owned his house, but rented it from the confectioner,
Karl Fazer, whose signature still appears on the famous Fazer Blue chocolates”,
Mr. Kirk says. Mannerheim's signature can be seen in many public buildings throughout
but the only document on which these two most famous signatures appear is the
lease for the house in Kaivopuisto. The house, which was transformed into
a museum after Mannerheim’s death, still gives a very vivid impression of this
extraordinary man.

The many parallels between Mannerheim and Churchill
also fascinate Mr Kirk. Both were born into great houses, both were badly
behaved at school, and dropped out. Both travelled widely, and had military careers.
In the run up to the Second World War, both argued for rearmament against the
wishes of the political majority in their countries. Both smoked, and enjoyed a
drink or two.
An officer in the Imperial Army
Born in June 1867 at Louhisaari Manor, near Turku, Mannerheim was the second son
of a moneyed, Swedish-speaking noble family. (The family actually spoke a
different language every day of the week: Swedish, English, French, Russian,
German, and Portuguese. And yes, even Finnish.) While Mannerheim’s mother was a
devout Christian, a dutiful and loyal person, the Count passed on to his son an
appreciation of the good life, a love of beautiful women, good food, and the
fine arts. Indeed the Count was declared bankrupt and, taking his mistress with
him, fled to Paris
before Gustaf turned 15. The family home was sold, and the mother died of a
heart attack.
At the time Finland
was still a part of the Russian Empire, even if an autonomous Grand Duchy. It
was not exceptional for young men to seek their fortune outside their native
land, and in 1887 the impoverished young Mannerheim enrolled in the Nikolayevskaya Cavalry School
in St. Petersburg.
This was the start of what was to be 30 eventful years of loyally serving the
Emperor in the Imperial Army. Mannerheim was an ambitious man, but fortunately
he also turned out to be gifted, effective, and absolutely just as a military
leader. He demanded the impossible from everyone, including himself.
Maintaining a lifestyle suitable for a Cavalry Officer in Guard's cavalry was expensive.
In 1892 Mannerheim came into a great deal of money by way marrying a wealthy
Russian heiress. This, however, proved only a temporary solution, since after a
few unexpectedly happy years Baroness Mannerheim emigrated permanently to Paris with the couple’s
two daughters. This left Mannerheim free to pursue his career unobstructed, but
sadly out of funds. Already in 1911 he complained to a friend about his
financial situation: “I am forced to lead a very moderate life. All my money
goes to horses and beautiful women. There is nothing left for trifles!”

A great traveller

Being a soldier and a lover were not the only things
that defined Mannerheim. Among other things he was also a masterful rider, an
adventurous explorer, an accomplished photographer, and a skilful diplomat.
These at least were the qualities required of him on the two-year reconnoitring
(spying) expedition his Russian masters sent him on at the beginning of the
20th century.

Like many others, Mr. Kirk too is amazed by
Mannerheim’s journey. Under the cover of a Helsinki University
professor engaged in ethnological and biological research, Mannerheim travelled
from the Middle East to the eastern Chinese
coast during the years 1906-08. A fair-sized entourage accompanied him, but in
the end only two were there for the whole length (over 14,000 kilometers) of
the journey: Mannerheim and his horse. Mannerheim drew maps for 3,000
kilometers, took more than 1,350 photographs, obtained more than 1,200 objects,
prepared impressive statistics, and wrote detailed reports. Ironically, his
ethnographic studies are still of use today while the products of his spying
were soon buried in archives.

A man ahead of
his time

Mannerheim’s national importance to Finland is not
solely due to his role as the supreme wartime Commander-in-Chief. He was also a
political leader who twice assumed the role of Finland's Head of State. Straight
after the declaration of independence, Finland decided to become a
monarchy and invited a German prince to become king. In the interim, Mannerheim
became regent. The prince never came, and the Finns decided to become a republic.
Mannerheim became President of Finland during the war in 1944 in order to
secure peace with Russia.
As Mr. Kirk points out, Mannerheim was effectively both a royal and a republican.
He was a loyal servant of the Czar, advocated monarchy for Finland, and
ended up as the head up the Republic himself.
As a travelled cosmopolitan Mannerheim had a very broad field of vision, or the
rare gift of reconciling the national interests of a small, peripheral country
with those of the great powers. A man of many contrasts, paradoxes and
exceptional timings, Mannerheim was “cosmopolitan in a time of nationalism,
aristocrat in the era of democracy, and conservative in the age of

Cover story Misc

The subversive scientist?

Scrooge McDuck or Uncle Scrooge may be a comic book
character, but (Nils) Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld (1832-1901) is a very real
historical figure. Born in Helsinki, on Bulevardi 5, Nordenskiöld spent his youth
and childhood at Frugård manor in Mäntsälä, where he developed an early interest
in the natural sciences. Already as a child Nordenskiöld accompanied his father
Nils, the chief superintendent of the Finnish mining board, on various
mineralogical expeditions around the country. The boy's formal schooling began
at 13 with a false start, but two years later he was already at the top of his
class. In 1855, six years after entering the Imperial Alexander University of
Helsinki, Nordenskiöld had already defended a doctoral dissertation, published
several other scientific publications, and accompanied his father on a
scientific trip to the Urals.


{mosimage}A man of principles, or, banqueting
will do that to you

In November 1855 Nordenskiöld and a group of friends
from the University arranged a banquet to celebrate their birthdays and name
days. There was live music, singing, and a great deal of drinking and
merriment. Many speeches and toasts were made, some parodying the great
eastern, some the western powers. The party ended on the streets of Helsinki
with some of the guests singing the Marseillaise in Swedish.

Much to the misfortune of the revellers, these were
the years of the Crimean War (1852-56), and the resident Russian Governor-General
of Finland, the count Fredrick von Berg, was in no way predisposed to opening
space for public political dissent. In fact, Nordenskiöld and his friends had
already evoked Berg’s wrath by exposing one of the university students as his

The new incident gave von Berg the excuse he needed to
take his revenge. The speeches and the Marseillaise were construed as
subversive political acts, and von Berg had the University expel or detain the
involved students. Some of those punished left Finland for good. Nordenskiöld,
suddenly stripped of his academic positions, travelled to Berlin for further
study, but returned the next summer.

The following spring Nordenskiöld took part in a
formal degree ceremony of the faculty, and had the degrees of master and doctor
conferred on him. Two days later he was invited to make a farewell speech to
the Swedish guests. Nordenskiöld's chosen subject was the future of Finland, and
he spiced up the speech with phrases such as “the indomitable consciousness of
our right to freedom”. The audience responded with rapturous joy, but not
everyone was pleased. The Governor-General thought it near-treason, and gave
Nordenskiöld two options: to apologise, or to emigrate permanently. Nordenskiöld
chose exile, and never again returned to live in Finland.


Explorer of the Northeast Passage

Nordenskiöld settled in Sweden where he was soon offered
the chance to participate in an arctic expedition to Svalbard, an archipelago
lying in the Arctic Ocean. Between the years 1857 and 1883 Nordenskiöld
participated in and lead a total of ten scientific expeditions in the arctic
regions. He explored Svalbard, Greenland, and even attempted to reach the North
Pole, but it was the Northeast Passage that truly captured his imagination.

{mosimage}At the time all commercial shipping routes from Europe
to Asia or the west coast of North America circumnavigated either Africa or the
southernmost tip of South America. In theory however, the shortest maritime
route between Europe and East Asia was the Northeast passage, a passage from
northern Norway to the Pacific Ocean along the coast of Siberia and through the
Bering strait. Something like this had been mapped out already by Olaus Magnus
in his 1539 Carta marina map. But no-one had ever succeeded in sailing
through the route. Was it inevitable that all attempts should fail? Would the
passage always be blocked by ice, or could the arctic weather permit the
journey? Nordenskiöld was convinced that it could be done, and set out to prove

In 1877 Nordenskiöld had secured the necessary funds,
and started planning and preparing for the voyage. For the expedition’s ship he
bought the Vega, a whaler with a powerful steam engine, and gathered her
a crew of experienced volunteers. The captain of the Vega was to be
Louis Palander, a Swedish naval lieutenant. Indeed, had it not been for Palander
and his exceptional navigational skills, the expedition might never have
succeeded, since Nordenskiöld himself was no arctic sailor. He was constantly
sea-sick, and according to contemporaries “no one has ever dreaded ice as much
as Nordenskiöld did”.

But Nordenskiöld had mastered the skill of preparing
well, and when the Vega weighed anchor on the 21th of July
1878, it had everything needed to weather an arctic winter or two. That is, if
the Bering strait froze over before they could pass through, the ship would
have enough coal, and the people enough warm clothes, food, and entertainment.

The journey started auspiciously enough with the
numerous scientists and officers aboard the Vega all carrying out their
specific measurements or research tasks. Hardly anything from the sea currents
to petrified prehistoric plants and local tribes escaped their attention.
Longitudes were measured, maps drawn, and everything was going according to plan.
But on the 28th of September, when the Vega was only two days
away from the Bering strait, the ocean froze around her. Had the expedition arrived
on the spot only a few hours earlier, it could have sailed through the entire
length of the passage in two months.

As it was, the Vega and her people were stuck
in Kolyuchin Bay for ten months of arctic winter. Thanks to Nordenskiöld’s
planning, however, the time was spent in relative comfort. While the
temperature outside eventually dropped to -46°C, inside the ship’s cabins it
was always at least +12°C. The scientists carried on with their research, and the crew’s
inevitable boredom was alleviated with a celebration on every possible
occasion. It turned out that the only thing Nordenskiöld had forgotten was a
Christmas tree, and even that could be rigged up from twigs and driftwood.

On 18th July 1879 summer finally reached the Vega in
the form of a break-up of the surrounding ice. Soon they were through the
Bering strait, and on their way home. Nordenskiöld had proved the Northeast
passage could be safely sailed through. The expedition’s success was a global
sensation, and the Vega was received with festivities in every harbour
it put into. From a first stop in Port Clarence (Alaska) the expedition
continued on to Japan, where even the emperor was curious to meet Nordenskiöld.
Hong Kong, China, Borneo, and Ceylon followed, and then, on the other side of
the Indian Ocean, Yemen, the Suez canal, the Mediterranean, and Naples. Twenty-one
months after the beginning of the expedition the Vega finally arrived to
a jubilant Stockholm on the 24th of April 1880. Nordenskiöld’s
voyage around the continent of Eurasia was complete.


Founder of the History of

In the end the discovery of the Northeast passage did
not immediately reroute much commercial traffic, but it did provide excellent
fuel for the popular imagination. The true age of explorations was coming to an
end, but the fascination, the romance still lingered. After all, this was the
time when Jules Verne published his Voyages extraordinaires, and the two
books Nordenskiöld wrote about his journey were soon published in 11 languages.

With his royalties Nordenskiöld built up an extensive scientific
library of geographical history. He took a particular interest in early
cartographical literature, and in works describing voyages of exploration. Especially
the discovery of the New World fascinated him, and Nordenskiöld actually did go
to the Chicago Universal Exposition to promote his book "First maps of
America". It was a fitting occasion since the Exposition, also known as
the Columbian Exhibition, commemorated the 400th anniversary of
Columbus' journey to America.

Nordenskiöld had become a Swedish citizen, held the
post of Superintendent of the mineralogical department in the Swedish Royal
Museum from the age of 26 unto his death, and made all his great expeditions under
the Swedish flag. He had been created a baron, appointed a member of the
Swedish Academy, and received a place in the Swedish Diet, but in his heart he
always remained a Finn. After all, it was here, at Louhisaari manor, that he
had married the baroness Anna Maria Mannerheim, the aunt of another Finnish
hero. While during his lifetime Nordenskiöld had made his collection available
to other scholars by publishing a Facsimile-atlas of the most important maps, at
his death he wanted the collection, in its entirety, to be located in Finland.

Today The A.E. Nordenskiöld Collection, comprising
over 400 atlases and 24, 000 historical maps, is one of the greatest treasures
of the Helsinki University Library, and included in the UNESCO Memory of the
World Register.

Cover story Misc

Hurraa for children!

The minimum age for audience members for one of the productions
premiering at the festival couldn't be much lower: crawling and walking age
children. Working group Anttonen, Nuotio, Davies
offers them Rapurytmikarnevaali, an
action-packed crab-crawl rhythm and salsa carnival with songs that will make
everybody want to swing.

{mosimage}Children over five can
enjoy Sammakkoprinsessa (The Frog
Princess), a mix of fairytale, opera and puppet theatre, based on classic
folktales. While one of the many acts for 7 to 12-year-olds is Klokbornin Jättiläisjamit (Klokborn’s
Giant Jam), a show that combines shadow theatre with a wide variety of music
styles and brings to life the giants Gargantua and Pantagruel, created by 15th
century French writer Rabelais. 

The oldest non-adults
are well catered for with Idiothello,
a joint production by the Åbo Svenska Teater and the Von Krahl theatre in
Tallinn. Directed and choreographed by Muscovite Sasha Pepelyaev, the show draws upon two classical masterpieces,
Dostoevsky’s The Idiot and
Shakespeare’s Othello. The language
used is Swedish, but the piece is performed in a physical way with little

The Hurraa! Festival
offers children many fun and exciting experiences, but also takes up some
serious topics like bullying, the divorce of parents, a mother’s depression and
children’s rights and fears. Surkeus
& Kurjuus
(Gloom & Doom), for example, is a play for children aged
8-12 and broaches the fear after change and separation, plus how to conquer it.
Pikku Piru (Little Devil) is aimed at
the same age group and follows the story of a little boy who is bullied at
school, but whose parents are too busy to help him. 

The festival culminates
with the Näyteikkuna (Display window)
at the East-Helsinki Cultural Centre Stoa on March 16th and 17th, offering
non-stop theatre for children of all ages, even for babies. The events at Stoa
end with a workshop and seminar for makers of youth theatre with playwrights
Jeremy Turner from Britain and Maria Ines
from Argentina. 

The Hurraa! Festival is
organized by the cultural departments of the cities of Helsinki, Espoo and
Vantaa in cooperation with the Finnish ASSITEJ centre, Helsinki’s Theatre
Museum and the cultural department of Kauniainen. 


The performances take place at cultural centres, youth
centres, multipurpose buildings and schools throughout Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa
and Kauniainen.

Tickets 4-5 euros, festival pass for all performances on
16th and 17th March at Stoa 20 euros. 

Full details on all the acts (in Finnish and Swedish, with
some summaries in English), locations and the festival programme:

Cover story Misc

Finnish design all around you

Finnish design has reached all kind of levels in our everyday life. You
can see it in the latest model of mobile phone, or carried in the form of a bag
by the trendiest teenager in a fashionable pub late at night.

{mosimage}Roots & wings

Marimekko is the leading Finnish textile and clothing design company,
which is also well known outside of Finland’s borders. They design and
manufacture high-quality clothing, interior decoration textiles, bags and other
accessories. Some of the greatest Finnish designers have collaborated with the
company, such as Jukka Rintala. He
started his career 30 years ago and is well known especially for the evening
gowns he designs. But they are not the only thing he does; he is a versatile
designer, and
he has done costumes for theatre
as well as
interior and clothing design.

Marimekko has been one of the most important Finnish success stories
over the decades, in fact ever since the company was established in 1951. Some
of their products and prints that you will see on the shelves of the shops
today are as old as company, but nowadays more in style than ever!

So, what’s new in Marimekko? Something very unique and interesting is going
on: the company has signed an agreement to start cooperation under license,
concerning the decoration of elevator car interiors. The agreement that was made
with KONE, a large Finnish machine manufacturer, provides an opportunity to
apply Marimekko design to elevators by decorating the internal walls of an
elevator car with a decorative laminate. “These two strong international brands
will strengthen each other and provide architectural planning with a new
dimension,” says Matti Alahuhta, the president of KONE Corporation. And
according to Kirsti Paakkanen, the president of Marimekko, “the agreement
reflects the goal of both parties to make design a part of people's everyday
lives”. And you can even change the laminate, so your elevator is stylish for
every occasion! You wouldn’t have guessed that the manufacturer of elevator
cars and one of the hottest clothing design company have anything in common, would


Camping spirit

Finnish designers are very ingenious. If Marimekko designs interiors of elevator
cars, the designer of IVANAHelsinki gives the key of her apartment to her
customers. What is going on? Isn’t the regular shop enough? 

Wait, we have to go back in time first. The company was founded by
designer Paola Suhonen and her sister Pirjo Suhonen in 1998. There is a new
trend called Fennofolk, which is a mix of Scandinavian pure and simple lines,
and IVANAHelsinki represents this new style, which is a combination of modern
Scandinavian and Slavic style with a new twist. The style was born in Finland and the
oddness of the Finns is big part of it. That means that the clothes are a bit
absurd, in such a way that you will wonder if some part of the design should be
like that or not.

There is lot of going on in IVANAHelsinki these days. Paola Suhonen’s
designs are well known in Finland,
but also internationally. One country that particularly adores IVANA´s style is
where the company has a huge market. Just recently, the Suhonen sisters paid a
visit to this oriental country to assist to several exhibitions of their

But one more domestic and slightly unusual promotion is happening here
in Helsinki:
Paola Suhonen opened her home to her customers! According to Paola’s sister and
business partner, Pirjo Suhonen, “the idea was to bring the shop into home,
totally the opposite to the normal way of thinking when home products are in a

The apartment, or should I say home, is in trendy, but rough,
neighbourhood called Kallio, in Helsinki.
It is open for the loyal customers, who will get the key and can visit, spend
time and shop when they have time to do it. What makes this concept unique is
the level of trust. The idea is to make the customers to feel like they are at
home. There are 10 keys available and one of them could be yours for a month!


The bear is back!

Karhu, which means 'bear' in Finnish, makes sports gear, and much of
their range has remained unchanged from when it first appeared. The story of
the company was almost coming to and end when Karhu teamed up with an
advertising company and decided to do something: improve the marketing and tell
consumers about Karhu’s long journey. This is Karhu’s second success story.

The company was established in 1916 and the picture of a bear was
already used in the company logo. In the beginning, discus and javelins were the
most important products, but running and track shoes were also manufactured. In
the 1930s the product range expanded even more.

{mosimage}Due to the Helsinki Olympics (in 1952) Karhu became a significant sports
equipment manufacturer and earned its international reputation as the leading
manufacturer of athletic shoes. An interesting fact is that Karhu sold its
three stripes trademark to one – these days well-known – man, whose sport brand
also uses the same trademark. According the story the, price they got was two
bottles of good whiskey and about 1,600 euros. Over the next decades Karhu
became a well-known trademark for athletic shoes for top runners worldwide and
it developed the first air cushion system for its trainers in '70s.

Even though the design and quality were excellent, the marketing of the
products wasn’t very good and that is why the brand was pretty much forgotten around
the late '80s and '90s, until the beginning of the millennium when the Karhu
Originals collection was launched. The company co-operated with their advertising
company and they spent lot of money on marketing the trainers and bags and it
was worth every penny, because today Karhu is a big name in fashion; the
products have huge retro appeal and are extremely trendy nowadays. Karhu’s long
history and high quality are the things which attract the buyers today. Another
nice fact is that Karhu Originals are hand-made in Europe.


The plastic pioneer

Eero Arnio represents very well the innovative Finnish spirit. Born in
1932, he studied from 1954 to 1957 at the Institute of Industrial
Arts in Helsinki.
Not long after opening his own office, he designed the famous “Ball Chair”. The
fiberglass material and shape used supposedly a great novelty at that time. He
was and is also a pioneer in the way he works with the materials; for example,
he developed “rotation molding”, a particular method of working with plastic
(medium density polyethylene) that offers the same possibilities as fiberglass
in terms of quality, but at a lower cost.


Houseware magicians

The disillusionment at seeing the lack of creativity at the tableware section
of the Ambiente fair of Frankfurt led to former friends from the University of
Art and Design in Helsinki
Tony Alfström (1972 Finland)
and Brian Keaney (1974 Ireland) to found Tonfisk on December 17th,
1999. And no
wonder that the founders raise their glasses filled with Finnish vodka to mark
that day every year. Things are running smoothly for a company that
nowadays exports
their products to more than 30 different countries. This
dynamic and youthful
spirit appears clear when you take a look at their designer´s most creative
; they all radiate refreshment of ideas and a joyful spirit. If you have
the chance, take a look at the 'Oma' lemon squeezer by Jenni Ojala and Susanna
, or the milk and
sugar “Newton” set by Tanja Sipilä.

And obviously, once
you start to transform your kitchen into
your own personal Finnish design museum, the experience can be fascinating. Shapes
that you would never imagine appear in concordance with the environment in the
design of small details to which you had never paid attention before. If not,
take a look to the curvy modern forms of Majamoo wooden trivets (
a three-legged metal stand for
supporting a cooking pot over a flame)
, trays or
chopsticks. The user may be tempted
to use their small beautiful
pieces to eat, or just to preserve them on the table as a timeless decoration


125 years anniversary

But undoubtedly, when
referring to homeware design, special mention goes to the Iittala group, with
125 years of existence, which – apart from their own company
 also has strong presence through their brands
Arabia and Hackman. Its story dates back to 1881, when a glass factory was
established in Iittala, a small Finnish village north of Helsinki. Iittala has
25 shops around the world, highly concentrated in Holland, where you can find
10, and a new one was
opened to the public in Amsterdam.

As a highlight in the
company’s history, there is the world famous Alvar Aalto vase, designed in 1936
and still widely produced

. Even with the passing of the years, his designs do
not lose importance
; rather the opposite, they
look more appropriate now than ever.
Even the
director of the Aalto Foundation, Markku Lahti, is invited in November to
a series of conferences around
the USA, an example of the respect and veneration that the
Aalto´s work generates all over the world.

And that is not the
only link in
North American with Finnish design. In Madison, Wisconsin State, in the USA, you
can find the headquarters of Fiskars, a company that creates quality tools. The
name comes from the city with the same name located in west
ern Finland,
where Dutch merchants established a blast furnace. Soon, the company gained
fame for the
high quality of their iron products, and that fame
has remained until the present day. The characteristic Finnish commitment
to innovation and ease of use can be found even in their gardening scissors.

You would think that Finnish design is simple and clean, but in fact it
can surprise you: Just take an elevator car ride, go to your favourite
designer’s home and chill out or take a walk in the trendiest shoes on the
streets. It is Finnish design everywhere!