Media Lab Helsinki

City Sets – Discover the Design

Press Images

• Combines visual research, media art and design productions, exhibitions and interactive forums within the World Design Capital Helsinki year 2012.

• Invites people to explore the city and its design with open eyes and to discover and discuss the values embedded in an urban environment.

City Sets uses the metaphor of ‘city as stage’ in order to investigate critically the design elements, visual languages and narratives embedded in the cities. Narratives define people by defining their roles on stage. Design has multidimensional impact and it can help to inform people about their space and rules (e.g. street and traffic signs), to identify places and events (e.g. shops, restaurants, exhibitions), to persuade people to change their behavior (e.g. advertisements and promotions) and to tell stories about past, present and future (e.g. monuments, building plots and people’s interaction in space). These dimensions together with architecture create city’s identity, it’s ‘big story’.






City Sets is part of the Aalto University Living+ program creating better and more sustainable living environments. 

City Sets on osa Aalto-yliopiston Living+ ohjelmaa, joka luo parempia elinympäristöjä kestävän kehityksen hengessä.


Three forums for discovering the city design will be produced for design and related fields’ students, researchers, professionals and general public:

1. City Sets workshops, web site and media player presents one-two multiple-screen workshop productions of the design modes and values in Helsinki. In 2012, two City Sets workshops will take place, the fist one will be from 5-9 of March for Aalto students, in Helsinki. The second workshop will take place from 19-23 of March in Paris. It involved students from the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Décoratifs (ENSAD), and will have the cooperation from the Finnish Institute. The workshop format was also introduced to other design schools through Cumulus (24-26.05.2012), International Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media.


2. “City Sets: Multimodal Local Media” (working title) seminar will be organized 23-24 August 2012 in Media Center Lume, as a continuation of the “City Sets – Visual Urban Identities” seminar in 2010. The seminar will take place at the same time with the City Noises Helsinki exhibit that introduces site-specific art works in urban setting.


© City Sets WS 2010: Satoko Hinomizu and Jian Li












piece by Heidi Uppa, Mari Huhtanen and Louise Lazzari

Photo by Johanna Rotko © 2012










Photo by Johanna Rotko @ 2012










3. Location-based media art installations switch another point of view to the city and its inhabitants in international exhibitions:

Heidi Tikka © 2012









Johanna Rotko © 2012








Johanna Rotko © 2012









‘At Hand – Movable Places’ explores urban space as affect space. The work observes how people express, through their body, their embodied being in the city, which is increasingly mediated by the spatial practices of private ownership. Human gestures are introduced back to city space in the form an installation setup, which is movable and enables the transformation of an ordinary shop window into a touch screen. The installation will pop up in city windows over the nighttime (or could be presented in suitable underground tunnel exhibition space 24/7). Media artist Heidi Tikka is responsible for the development of the ‘At Hand’ concept and art piece, architect media artist Jaakko Pesonen for the design of the movable installation setup and Teemu Korpilahti for its technical realization.

‘At Hand – Movable Places’ media art installation was exhibited in Helsinki International Photography Festival in 2 March – 30 April 2012. It is being exhibited at the Finnish Institute in Paris and in the Europe metro station until June 2012.

In 2010, Heidi Tikka began to gather an archive of gestures people produce half-knowingly, interpreting these gestures as the visible trajectories of affective being in the city, and presented them in the first installation version.


Andy Best © 2011

‘RE/F/r.ACE’ is a participatory multimodal city event utilizing interactive and mobile media in several levels. The project embraces contemporary socio-political themes like rhythm of urban life style and difference through the visual and sound design. On a metaphorical level, it deals with concepts related to social glue, the miracle of human bonding through social media.

Visually the core concept of RE/F/r.ACE- art work consists of projections on the buildings and localized sound environments in public spaces. The 1-4 projections are essentially made of the citizen’s portraits. The faces belong to people who represent the livelihood of the city from different ethnic identities, social hierarchies and classes. People are able to send their own or their friends images through the web or their mobile phones.

Alongside with using people’s own photographs in the projections, the images are also simultaneously converted into sound data, which feeds into the localized sound projections on the public space. Other ambient sound environment is created on the spot by recording urban sounds e.g. traffic noise, human sounds from the urban environment during the event. This data is run through a programme which transforms the noise into instrumental music.

In the participatory media event, the architectonic urban setting is paralleled with human faces and personal details of city inhabitants. Who is represented in the architectural image of the city? Is this city ours, who does it belong to? What is the content of the narration of the legitimate, the permanent and the semi-permanent structures of the urban environment?

RE/F/r.ACE  was exhibited in Helsinki February-March 2012, London April 2012, Berlin 2012 and Paris June 2012.


Press images



View presentations from our speakers that took part in City Sets and Media Facades Festival (23-24.08.2012) HERE