Clearly determined not to miss a moment of the year dedicated to the celebrations, Helsinki has been preparing an exciting programme of events and will be kicking off the year with a ceremony in Senate Square that will be broadcast live on TV and over the Internet. This glittering event, the World Design Gala, includes the presentation of the prestigious Alvar Aalto Medal and the new World Design Impact Prize which, as its name suggests, recognises the social impact of design.
Along with the Finnish capital, the neighbouring municipalites of Espoo, Vantaa, Kauniainen and Lahti will be getting their share of the action, too. Around 300 events, activities and initiatives are planned under the slogan Open Helskinki: embedding design in life. Key motifs and themes will be openness, global responsibility and 'embedded design' – expanding the concept of design to encompass not simply products, but also systems and services such as healthcare, urban planning and administration, as well as making sure the needs of users are included during the development stages of design.
In addition to the usual short-term activities such as exhibitions and conferences – including Builders of the Future: Finnish Design 1945-1970, an exhibition exploring how Finland rose to be a world-leader in design after the Second World War – there will be long-term projects whose full impact will not be seen immediately, but that will make Helsinki a better place to live and visit both now and for future generations.
The Finnish capital is set in the heart of the Baltic Sea region with easy access to East and West. It is known as a stable and safe place to work and live, with a high standard of living and social services. Around a quarter of the country's population live in Helsinki, where design and innovation are an integral part of daily life. Finland is recognised for its innovative and unobtrusive design, and 2012 will give visitors a clear opportunity to reconsider everyday objects that usually go unremarked.