As a child I learned to sail on Lahti’s city lake, green with algae. You had to be careful not to capsize. There was no danger of drowning, but the rash was annoying. The water near the opposite shore was clearer. The wood products mill’s harbour basin was completely free of seaweed. A wonderful lagoon.
Our summers were spent in the water, our winters in the snow. I loved frolicking in the snow, that frosty, malleable microcosm. The breathtaking beauty of ice. Snow became my tool, a track to traverse, a material to build with.
As a designer I’ve designed with water and for water. My diploma work involved creating the interior of a sail boat. I’ve helped develop skis. I’ve designed drinks, planned winter sports events, furnished my yard with snowy structures.
Helsinki is the World Design Capital together with its neighbours and Lahti, the design, lake and winter sports city. Water is also related to the Design Capital year’s programme. Not surprising considering that water is everywhere, just like design. Design strives to improve what people have created.
Even though our city lake Vesijärvi has been cleaned up using a variety of methods, its load levels need to be monitored continuously. The Water and Design project for the World Design Capital year takes up the city’s storm water challenge. We will not be developing equipment for filtering the sewer streams flowing into the lake, instead we will conceptualise ways to make the asphalt surface of the city itself into a filter. Can we achieve a healthier, fresher urban water ecosystem? Should the cobblestones be made of wood, the pavement’s kerbs be stream beds? How about a city-swamp acting as a buffer against the fluctuation of water masses?
Water is life – and, in line with the theme for WDC Helsinki 2012, we also wish to contribute to embedding design in life.