HELSINKI — The Finnish capital is an accessible and compact city known for its vibrant design tradition, food culture, and as a 21st-century high-tech innovation hub. A visitor to the city, with its tower-dominated technology district and center chockablock with boutiques, galleries, hotels, and restaurants that speak of the next new thing, might easily forget that Finland is one of the least populated countries in Europe. But Seurasaari, an island on the Helsinki’s western outskirts featuring a dense forest, lakes, and rocky beaches, offers a taste of the nature that typifies the rest of the country. The island is also home to the Seurasaari Open-Air Museum and what our friend, Washington, D.C.-based architect Travis Price, calls “a nexus of folklore, culture, and nature.”
Price is founder and director of Spirit of Place/Spirit of Design, a design-build educational exploration program at Catholic University of America that provides architecture students the opportunity to research, design, and construct a project in nine days in a remote landscape. In 2010 on Seurasaari, he and his students built Kalevalakehto, literally “cradle of the Kalevala,” named for and inspired by the Kalevala, Finland’s national epic compiled in the 19th century from Finnish oral folklore and mythology.