Urban Planning

Design expertise from Helsinki to be showcased at Beijing Design Week

This year, Helsinki, the capital of Finland, will be the Guest City of the largest design festival in Asia, Beijing Design Week. The programme offered by the City of Helsinki aims at showing festival visitors what well-designed everyday life and smart solutions for learning and urban planning are like in Helsinki.

Designing better life

Helsinki’s programme as a Guest City is built on the theme of Designing Better Life. Helsinki is presented as a versatile user of design, building better everyday life and sustainable urban living by using design principles and professionals. The programme focuses in particular on sustainable and smart solutions for learning and urban development, in which design plays a major role.


In addition to the mostly virtual content, an installation designed by JKMM Architects and titled The Recipes for Happy Helsinki Home will also be built on-site in Beijing. The installation consists of seven wooden cubic spaces. Visitors can walk or peek inside them to experience them with all their senses and gain inspiration from the elements of life in Helsinki: Forest, Knowledge, Rest, Play, Sauna, Food and Work. In the middle of it all, there is a communal meeting place, the Square, where workshops and other events will take place during the festival.

Twin city

Beijing is Helsinki’s only official twin city. In 2019, the cities signed a cooperation agreement, the themes of which, including urban planning, environmental protection and innovative cooperation, are also a part of the Guest City programme.
The installation is inspired by dialogue between Beijing and Helsinki cultures, and it is implemented in close cooperation with Chinese craftspeople. For example, artist Pan Jianfeng has created Chinese characters for each spatial theme in a unique style.

Carbon footprint

The goal is to keep the installation’s carbon footprint as small as possible. For example, the timber has not been sent from Finland; materials already present in China have been used, instead. A Chinese partner workshop will manufacture the furniture for the Square, and the intention is to recycle them locally after the festival.


At two expert seminars, Helsinki will showcase innovations for learning and sustainable urban living that support well-designed everyday life. New solutions for schooling and learning will be presented.
China’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2060 has attracted interest in Helsinki’s sustainable and smart urban solutions. These will be delved into at another expert seminar through several innovations, for example solutions for sustainable heating in Helsinki, without coal and with as little biomass as possible. The seminar will also topics like electric car charging platforms, visual modelling and energy and environmental technology.

Pop-up school

As a part of the Guest City programme, the Education Division of the City of Helsinki will hold a virtual pop-up school which will include students from both Helsinki and Beijing. At the four-day pop-up school, students will plan the classes’ content together and share ideas and information via virtual platforms. The classes’ topics will be related to Helsinki’s Guest City themes, design education and the goals of sustainable urban development.

The Beijing Design Week will be held from 18 September to 7 October 2021.

Written by: editors Smart City Hub
Header image: An installation shows the building blocks of good everyday life in Helsinki (photo: City of Helsinki)

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