The question effervesced like the bubbles in my in-flight glass of
champagne. Not just any glass‚ but ultima thule—the ancient
world's geographers' idea of the further most reaches of the
globe-designer Tapio Wirkkala's mid-century preserved moment
of cold. Formed by gradual change‚ as the molten glass burns
the surface of the wooden mould‚ the material mimics the
magical opacity of melting and refreezing Scandinavian ice.
The Finns say the sea gave birth to Helsinki and the harbor
raised her. A compact metropolis where collaboration rules
and the crossover between disciplines defines innovation‚ it is
a city of convergence: east and west‚ purity and modernity.
Embraced by forest‚ and the arms of the Baltic Sea‚ dotted
with hundreds of green islands‚ the wonder of Finland emerged
through the clouds. In the shifting positive and negative values
of island coastline and water mass‚ I recognized the undulating
line that informed the vision of another Finnish mid-20th century
design icon: Alvar Aalto. Son of a cartographer‚ Aalto believed
nothing can equal organic forms honed to their essence. While
its permutations from design to food and fashion.
designers elsewhere celebrated man and the machine‚ Aalto
and his Scandinavian contemporaries led the way with natural
shapes. In Helsinki‚ this intuitive affinity with nature is alive in all