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robertogreco : leonardkoren   2

cityofsound: Essay: 'Designing Finnishness', for 'Out Of The Blue: The Essence and Ambition of Finnish Design' (Gestalten)
"Knowing what to do when there is nothing to do
"The press conference is over, and in comes Jari Litmanen, from behind the door. And I looked at his face and I looked at his eyes, and I recognised something in those eyes. And I thought, this is a man with a great willpower. Because he was not shy, not timid, but he was modest. He is not a man who will raise his voice, or bang with his fist on the table and say, ‘We do it this way.’ No, he was more of a diplomat, not wanting to be a leader, but being a leader." [Former AFC Ajax team manager David Endt, on legendary Finnish footballer Jari Litmanen]

Finland has proven that it can take care of itself locally and globally. At home, its sheer existence is a tribute to fortitude, guile and determination, never mind the extent to which it has lately thrived. Globally, through Nokia, Kone, Rovio and others, through its diplomatic and political leadership, and through its design scene in general, it has punched well above its weight. Having been a reluctant leader, like Litmanen, will Finland once again step up to help define a new age, a post-industrial or re-industrial age? Unlike 1917, there are few obvious external drivers to force Finns to define Finnishness. So where will the desire for change come from?

Finland, and Finnishness, is not immune to the problems facing other European countries; the Eurocrisis, domestic xenophobia, industrial strife. Challenging these is difficult for an engineering culture not yet used to working with uncertainty, and in collaboration.

That requires this sense of openness to ambiguity, to non-planning, which is quite unlike the traditional mode of Finnishness. And yet there are also valuable cues in Finnishness, such as in the design—or undesign, as Leonard Koren would have it—of Finnish sauna culture.
"Making nature really means letting nature happen, since nature, the ultimate master of interactive complexity, is organized along principles too inscrutable for us to make from scratch. … Extraordinary baths … are created by natural geologic processes or by composers of sensory stimulation working in an intuitive, poetic, open-minded—undesign—manner." (Koren, ibid.)

Equally, the päiväkoti day-care system demonstrates a learning environment built with an agile structure that can follow where children wish to lead. The role of expertise—and every teacher in Finnish education is a highly-qualified expert—is not to control or enforce a national curriculum, but to react, shape, nurture and inspire. As such it could be a blueprint not only for education generally, but also for developing a culture comfortable with divergent learning, with exploration and experiment, with a broader social and emotional range, and with ambiguity.

Chess grandmaster Savielly Tartakower once said “Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do, strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do.” Indeed, Finland's early development was driven by tactics—survival, consolidation and then growth in the face of a clear set of "things to do"; defeat the conditions, resist the neighbours, rebuild after war.

With that, came success, comfort and then perhaps the inevitable lack of drive. The country is relatively well off and stable, and perhaps a little complacent given the recent accolades.

Design in recent years has seen a shift towards the ephemeral and social—interaction design, service design, user experience design, strategic design and so on. Conversely, there has been a return to the physical, albeit altered and transformed by that new modernity, with that possibility of newly hybrid “things”: digital/physical hybrids possessing a familiar materiality yet allied with responsiveness, awareness, and character by virtue of having the internet embedded within. With its strong technical research sector, and expertise in both materials and software, Finland is well-placed. Connect the power of its nascent nanotech research sector—interestingly, derived from its expertise with wood—to a richer Finnish design culture capable of sketching social objects, social services and social spaces and its potential becomes tangible, just as with the 1930s modernism that fused the science and engineering of the day with design in order to produce Artek.

Finnish design could be stretched to encompass these new directions, the aforementioned reversals towards openness, ambiguity, sociality, flexibility and softness. Given that unique DNA of Finnishness — both designed and undesigned, both old and young—Finland is at an interesting juncture.

The next phase, then, is knowing what to do, despite the appearance of not having anything to do.

Buckminster Fuller, a guest at Sitra's first design-led event at Helsinki’s Suomenlinna island fortress in 1968, once said “the best way to predict the future is to design it.” Finland has done this once before; it may be that now is exactly the right time to do it again."
finland  2014  design  danhill  cityofsound  sitra  buckminsterfuller  education  strategy  culture  exploration  experimentation  ambiguity  emergentcurriculumeurope  undesign  leonardkoren  nature  complexity  simplicity  davidendt  jarilitmanen  unproduct  efficiency  inefficiency  clarity  purity  small  slow  sisu  solitude  silence  barnraising  helsinki 
may 2014 by robertogreco

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