Visiting Helsinki, Carol Archer was impressed by the city’s strong art and and design culture and people-friendly streetscape. Finland has topped both the ‘happiness’ and ‘education’ scoreboards in recent years, and the city certainly has a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.

The new city library is a marvel. It’s a truly people-centred building, with areas that cater to all kinds of solo and communal activity – areas crowded with students doing homework, texting and chatting; areas for 3D printing, sewing and virtual reality; study rooms; areas for play, eating and drinking, and the design is disability-friendly. The whole space feels so alive and so well-utilised in ways that truly suit a range of the contemporary community in Helsinki. Experientially, with its potted trees, large windows and high ceilings punctuated by skylights, the place feels expansive and relaxed. Carol stayed in a hundred year old apartment in the part of town famous for a particularly Finnish art nouveau architecture which incorporates motifs, such as the owl, that are drawn from the Kalevala, the poetic national epic.

Helsinki has a good number of galleries, and Carol particularly enjoyed seeing the work of Tove Jansson, Väinö Blomstedt, Veikko Vionoja as well as the work of contemporary artists, Iiu Susiraja and Alma Heikkilä. The Helsinki visit also provided an opportunity to visit Galleria Kookos, where two of Carol’s recent drypoints were shown earlier in the month in a six-person exhibition entitled Back to Light