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Wood and sand: Helsinki Design Week shows off future living

A home that fits in a parking space and a spherical greenhouse are just two of six innovations on display in the Finnish capital for the annual Helsinki Design Week.

Maria Kozina The Growroom -installaatiossa.
"I love it! I want one", exclaims Russian tourist Maria Kozina. Image: Tommi Kolehmainen / Yle

A three-storey house appeared right in the centre of Helsinki on Monday. The structure takes up the same surface area as a single parking space and passers-by are encouraged to investigate the newfangled building and ascend to its decorated roof.

The house, named Tikku, is one of six environmental pieces that demonstrate solutions to urban overcrowding and population growth. The innovations are on display for Helsinki Design Week, which is being held for the 12th consecutive year.

Parkkiruudun kokoinen kerrostalo Tikku Helsingin Keskuskadulla.
A home the size of a parking space. Image: Antti Kolppo / Yle

"This is a simple solution that puts an apartment building where a car might otherwise be," says the building's architect, Marco Casagrande. "It is cheap and completely natural; it is built of nothing but wood and sand."

Speed can also be added to the list. Casagrande says the pre-fab house only took a few hours to erect. The house contains two small apartments, and features an open greenhouse on its roof.

Each of the three floors acts as a puzzle piece; the house will be carted off in three pieces on Sunday, September 17. Where it will be transported depends on who decides to buy the house outright.

"I'm a little nervous about where it'll end up," says Petra Majander, marketing chief at Helsinki Design Week.

Pull together

Another impressive structure on Keskuskatu in the city centre is the Growroom, a greenhouse in the shape of a ball which is intended for urban farming. The scents of herbs such as chilli and mint waft around in the compact space.

The sphere is an act of radical sharing, as its architectural blueprint is freely downloadable. Anyone with the right tools and materials can duplicate the miniature greenhouse themselves.

The Growroom -tilateos Keskuskadulla.
Image: Tommi Kolehmainen / Yle

The Three Smiths statue nearby was bustling with onlookers on Thursday, when a team of builders raised yet another house, called People's Architecture.

The piece's function is to act as a shelter and temporary lodgings, to be quickly constructed in various disaster zones across the globe.

The wooden cabin is not insulated enough for the rigours of a Finnish autumn, but the design has already been used in more tropical climes, where natural disasters such as tsunamis are more common.

"The important thing here, in addition to the efficient design, is the spirit of working together," says Majander.

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