Restaurant Day

Last Saturday we took part in Restaurant day, a day on which people are encouraged to open pop-up restaurants for one day. The idea is to celebrate food and restaurant culture and to have fun in (and with) the city. Our office was transformed into a thai lunch restaurant called Happy Start. 
Jaakko from our office has spent a good portion of his life in Asia so to him thai cooking is home cooking (his childhood stories typically start with something like: “Once when I ran away from home into the jungle”). Jaakko’s sister Johanna was recruited as co-cook, Klaus and I waited on tables and Johanna’s daughter Sonja was the barista. 

Rules and regulations are a big thing in Finland. You can’t even put a live candle on a child’s birthday cake at the daycare place because it might set off a fire. Actually you can’t bring a homemade cake either because of course there would immediately be food poisoning. So what they have is industrial cookies and a LED candle. How deeply, deeply depressing is that? So of course it is a complete miracle that Restaurant day is allowed to happen. But for some happy reason the authorities seem to be ok with it. We even had a health inspector as one of our customers. Ok, she was from Jaakko’s dog park scene, but still, she seemed really pleased. Sometimes all a city needs to do is not oppose, and interesting city culture will emerge all by itself. Without big masterplans. 

A lot of our customers were friends but the thing that made the day really special were the strangers just coming in from the street. Otherwise it would have been like having a dinner party for your friends but charging them for the food. A lot of people seemed to be going from restaurant to restaurant, eating a starter in one place and the main course in another. 
There were some moments of doubt during the preparations. When cooking in elementary conditions, when hunting down 36 chairs and running around the city looking for exotic ingredients, but when the day came everything went smoothly. After a beer we all said we would do it again. Now, all we have to do is come up with another theme. 


Elina and Krista take Dublin

Last weekend Krista and I travelled to Dublin on official World Design Capital business. I think our hosts thought they were getting design dignitaries over. They actually said there were people who were afraid of us coming. While actually I think Krista and I are probably the least frightening people you will ever meet. Everyone kept complimenting the Helsinki bid book (with which the WDC year was won) and we kept disapointing them by admitting we had nothing what so ever to do with getting the year to Helsinki.

We said we would write a report on our trip (although Krista probably had something more mature and analytical in mind) so here goes.

Earlier this year Krista, Saara and I were asked to curate an exhibition of international design for the world design capital year together with Design Forum Finland. We sent out a brief this summer to a lot of countries and about 20 responded with a proposal of what they would like to exhibit in Helsinki next year. Ireland's approach was perhaps the most intriguing. They said they were going to organize a design challenge to find a multidisciplinary team to create their proposal and they wanted us to come and be part of their jury.

Needless to say we jumped at the chance and soon found ourselves in the middle of Dublin design week, shown around like the design dignitaries we are not.

The design challenge ran from saturday to sunday with 12 teams consisting of architects, designers, fashion designers, computer engineers and performance artists finding clever approaches to the theme "Provoke the Everyday".

Krista checking out candies while the other work away.

What really impressed us was the positive spirit. People really wanted to give up their whole weekend in order to work with each other in finding the team that would best represent Ireland. We were reminded of how we ourselves had not changed our weekend plans to meet some important ICSID people last summer and felt slightly ashamed. Also we didn't know who Marco Steinberg was which delighted Barry, one of our hosts, and he had to tell us that he is the director of Sitra (by now they were probably thinking: "who are these impostors?").

In our limited 2,5 days we managed to attend a party at Red and Grey the graphic design office that designed the Dublin bid book (for 2014). See an irish pecha kucha, take a private architectural tour of central Dublin, eat well, give two small presentations of our own, see Bob Geldof, The Edge, Chris Noth AND support the irish economy with a little bit of shopping.

By the way, I loved this portrait that Red and Grey commissioned of themselves.

There are definitely differences between the Irish and the Finns. For one the taxi drivers in Helsinki don't say "God bless you" to customers. The Irish are good at talking, the Finns are good at listening. The Irish seem to be very united and happy while we can sometimes be a bit melancholy and bickering.

But there are also a lot of things we have in common. We are both at the fringes of Europe. Envying but also at same time challenging our bigger, richer neighbour countries. We like to drink (although none of that last weekend mind you). Every irishman (woman) should have Finn who would patiently listen and every Finn should have an irishperson to keep up the conversation. Thank you Ali, Barry, Bob, Rory and everyone else! See you in Helsinki next year.

How did the swedes get involved? I thought this was supposed to be an Ireland-Finland affair? They're everywhere.