Finnish design pop-up store in the Museum of Arts and Design (NY)

Starting end of this week, we can scan bits of Finnish design in a pop-up store in the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) foyer. The event is taking place soon, in 21-28 of October… Another great chance to get a glimpse to the 2012 World Design Capital…Helsinki and the surroundings. New York is promoting the uniqueness of Finnish design, as 2012 promises to be creating something extraordinary out of the concept thinking that is so true to contemporary design. The materials and products are connecting to the sustainable values, which global north now represents. ‘Arctic design’ is a concept, which will add dimension to Scandinavian design parameters and tradition. Finland’s architectural roots will be visible in Helsinki, so looking back in history is important. What is creating the contemporary presence, yet, is the remaking of the tradition. When looking back in the history of Finnish design, Alvar Aalto (among others) was not only an architect. His Aalto-vases have become well-known products around the world. His glasswork and furniture appear still in North American museums (MoMA, Philadelphia Museum of Art)… The conceptual thinking of adding different ingredients in the pot and then seeing and tasting what is the flavor of the ‘end-product’ describes today’s designs. Urban settings, architecture, city panning, environment, green values, greeneries, food-cultures, music, technologies, and so on, define what has value as a design. What still remains important is the craft and tradition to the content.

As Philadelphia Museum of Art was exhibiting Finnish design classics among its contemporary design exhibition in the summer,  Caroline Tiger wrote for The Inquirer (in May 20, 2011: “Philadelphia Museum of Art to open major contemporary design exhibition”): “Although the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s modern design collection has grown to be the biggest and best-regarded of any general museum in the country, it has lived mostly under the radar” . Saying that this ‘low profile’ exhibition in the Perelman building’s modern design gallery showed several interesting pieces from Finnish design masters, is quite modest. Furniture of Alvar Aalto, for example Armchair Model No. 31 (picture below),  ‘Kilta’ Tableware from Kaj Franck, and a pitcher, glasses and basket combo from Saara Hopea (in the picture above).

Eero Saarinen’s TWA in Open House New York

(TWA-terminal)

I am proud to be Finnish appreciating our architectural roots. Finnish-American Eero Saarinen’s father Eliel Saarinen was an architect visioning Finland’s future together with the architect partners Herman Gesellius and Armas Lindgren (the firm was established 1896). Architect-trio designed Finnish Pavilion for the World Expo in Paris is 1900s (Exposition Universelle). Finland, The Grand Duchy of Russia at that time, was first time exhibiting its designs in the own pavillion, so appearance in the expo was creating a strong sense of new future (Finland gained independence from Russia in 1917). Architects Gesellius, Lindgren and Eliel Saarinen designed Hvitträsk in Kirkkonummi (near Helsinki). Constructed in 1902, It was first the firm’s studio and became then Saarinen’s private home. The house was named after Lake Vitträsk, [H]vitträsk meaning White Lake. The striving National Romanticism and Jugend/Art Nouveau of the late 19th and early 20th century opened up the way to the modernism and futuristic agendas in the arts and design.  Finland’s national epic The Kalevala (Finland’s poems), which had been published in 1849, inspired the designers and architects with mythologies and epic poetry in the earlier times, the mythical characters might still enter the modernism in new abstract forms.

In New York, Eero Saarinen designed TWA-terinal. It opened in 1962 (another wing was added in 1969). TWA inspires with the natural organic forms and continues to be a timeless piece that shows the essence of environment in the architectural structure?  The monument does not threaten people with massive interiors, but organically pads and holds. TWA should be open for public and it should be site for great artistic works, a surrounding for innovations and discussions, as the design echoes sustainability and continuation. When TWA terminal opened it paraded modernism with red-colored seats and swanlike arches. Curvy white lines of modernism speak in the Flight Center, and it pays homage to the era in architectural history.  A question is timely today as the terminal is open to public for visit as part of the Open House New York weekend.

(below: Hvitträsk in Kirkkonummi)

Forest echoes

I have recently been thinking the forest in the aesthetics. Patterns and wood structures are back in current interior design. The recent trends have been bringing the nature into our living spaces. This updated, seemingly nostalgic approach can be retrieved into decades of design innovation where arts and crafts were not that far from the  ideas of industrialism and mass-production. Nature, fall colors, flowing trees in the wind, curved themselves into airy designs.

This chair tro is by Finnish Interior architect Ilmari Tapiovaara (1914-1999), exhibited as part of his chair collection in R GALLERY, in New York’s Franklin street in the Spring of 2011. I loved to see the chairs which were so familiar from my own childhood.  Did that red chair ever get to ‘mass-production’, or how do we define ‘mass-production’? The individual craft is still speaking to us its simple organic language.

The R GALLERY’s approach to research and innovation behind their design curating (for 10 years now) is an achievement. They have been picking trends, which have value for the future developments in the industry, giving priority to individual craftsmanship in the design and supporting innovation, which stands for sustainability, form and aesthetics in the works.

(Tapiovaara’s exhibition catalog is available in here)

 

Arctic sensing/design senses

It is almost twenty years now when Danish author Peter Høeg published his novel (1992) Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne, in English Smilla’s Sense of Snow (1996 in English). I could not at that time understand all the possible turns and meanings that the novel encompassed but was still very thrilled by the beauty of the snow. In the book, the character Smilla has an extraordinary ability to understand all types of snow, and name them.

What was so thrilling for me was the idea of snow being so central to one’s experiences and consciousness. In Finland (Norway, Sweden, Russia), the indigenous circumpolar Sami People, had hundreds of words for snow in their language defining the qualities of snow. Their traditional way of life included reindeer herding, and nomadic lifestyle was dependent on the snow conditions in pastures especially in winter. People knew how to define the snow.

In the arctic, the sensing of nature is important. I was growing up in a close relation to the nature. The aesthetics of snow come to my sensing of art and design. Shaping snow into ice and experiencing it in the landscape.

Another creative, artist Marc Chagall took inspiration from snow and wintry landscapes. One of his signature paintings is Over Vitebsk. The beauty of the painting is in the flying figure, and in the silent houses below him. Everything seems to be resting in the quiet of snow, yet there is an undercurrent movement. Chagall is having a nostalgic dream and sees his past hometown in a picturesque image full of movement and life.

I saw couple of recent Chagall shows pondering the corpus of his works. How little I knew that he had created so diverse collections in the United States.  I went to Philadelphia twice in the summer and saw the exhibition where curators wished to frame Chagall next to his fellow avant-garde Parisians. Again, Chagall’s presence in Philadelphia was surprisingly vivid.