Last week I visited Nokia, who wanted me there for an afternoon’s workshop. It can be hard to get an impression of a place in such a short space of time, especially when you are working for most of it, but Helsinki seemed at once strange and familiar, with its unusual mix of Scandinavian and quasi-Soviet architecture, and often striking juxtaposition of old and new.

What won me over to the city and its people (apart from feeling incredibly safe as I trod unfamiliar streets, even at the dead of night) was its endearing quirkiness. For example, after said workshop, Kokoro & Moi, the buzzy design company who’d hosted the workshop, invited us to a totally mad ‘cake party’, organised as part of Helsinki Design Week. Fashion, architectural and graphic designers had been challenged to create a conceptual piece (of cake). These were exhibited to a discerning crowd of designery types at a chi-chi furniture store. Among the various entrants were a cake as a giant coin, a loose self-portrait, and a chocolate offering shaped as a poo. Kokoro & Moi’s effort was a ‘build-it-yourself’ cake – plain sponge slices on which you could plaster jam, cream or hundreds and thousands with the provided plastic spades. A flouring of self-expression, you could say.

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