Artek's flagship store has jumped from one historic Helsinki property to another. Closing its Eteläesplanadi grand boulevard hub in January, the global culture and lifestyle brand has reopened in an Eliel Saarinen designed property, which couldn't be more centrally located.
Dating back to 1921, the building is located just opposite the Stockmann department store on Keskuskatu, Helsinki's main pedestrian street. The move is more than just about centrality (the previous location was just a short walk further out) – it also marks a return to the company's geographical roots. Between 1954 and 1991, Artek was housed next door, in Alvar Aalto's modernist Rautatalo (or 'Iron House').
The new store's façade allows floods of light through the art nouveau arched windows and, inside, the space has been completely opened up to reveal a vast, warehouse-style display room. Artek's furniture, lighting and accessories are on show in their entirety, organised into individual living clusters over two floors, which helps to demarcate the sprawling, 700 sq m design experience. There's also plenty of space to line with marble shelves, with wares from like-minded Nordic firms Knoll, String and Vitra, to name a few.
Highlights include product launches direct from the trade fairs and Artek Helsinki 'specials' (which are only available in store), as well as a workshop, where Alvar Aalto’s acclaimed 'Stool 60' can be customised on site by clients. Here at Wallpaper*, we are particularly fond of the substantial magazine and art-book nook, which feels more like a relaxed coffee-shop than a design store.
The floorplan also includes a corner dedicated to continuing the legacy of Galerie Artek (established in the 1950s at the Rautatalo store), providing a stage for artists and makers to showcase their work, suggesting that the brand's philosophy of promoting a 'grand synthesis of all the arts' is still at the company's beating heart.