When the epic character that is Alvar Aalto dominated cultural life in Helsinki, in 1955 Ilmari Tapiovaara – the first Finnish non-architect designer who vindicated himself in said capacity – a superb expert in chairs and furniture, and then a master for many generations of other Finish non-architect designers, undertook the project of his only household lamp.
His source of inspiration was Maya the Bee (German: Die Biene Maja), a friendly character from a 1912 children’s book, which gave rise to widely acclaimed comic strips and a Japanese television series, translated as Maija in Finland. The Maija collection is an expression of the feeling of light that is common in the cities of the Baltic, where public street lamps are few and far between and instead private homes and shop windows shine their beams of light towards the public street: outwards. In light of the circumstances, Tapiovaara conceived a column of small metal superimposed discs from which the light hangs out from a shimmering honeycomb, shrouded in warm life. The discs were originally in a nude rose colour, subsequently white was produced and nowadays Santa & Cole offers both alternatives. The Maija series is part of the Design Classics collection, a series of objects created at different times of modernity with the aim of putting forward critical discussion on creation in industrial design beyond mere trends.
Ilmari Tapiovaara is a pioneer in the new industrial design that arouse after World War II, when it was no more a cultural luxury asset but spread to the whole of society.
Ilmari Tapiovaara was born in 1914 in Hämeenlinna (Finland), and studied at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, where he got in contact with functionalism, with Alvar Aalto's designs, and with the Modern movement. He then completed his training at Le Corbusier's studio. He was also greatly influenced and inspired by the contact with nature of his childhood: "Nature is the best and closest guide for industrial designers."
Tapiovaara had to face the new practical challenges that modern industrial design posed: how to assemble series of pieces, how to package rationally for transportation and export, solidity, ergonomy, and the investigation on new materials and techniques. The result of his work are ironic and persuasive pieces, that make a subtle allusion to tradition, while stile being transgressor and timeless at the same time, and blessed by the poetic of shape. Ilmari Tapiovaara died in 1999, after having set the bases for the development of industrial design.
A main characteristic of Tapiovaara's work is that he explored its possibilities through multiplicity: he created many versions of each of his important pieces, and reissued them in different shapes. He did this for instance with the Fanett-Demoiselle chair (1957); the famous Domus chair (1946), made of solid birch and lacquered plywood that was part of the furniture for the students residence Domus Académica, and then produced by Knoll as the Finnchair; the Trienna chair (1954); the Lukki chair, a chair that can be piled up, with a curved steel tube and plywood; the Otto cutlery (1986); or the Maija Mehiläinen lamp for Asko (1957), later edited by Santa & Cole.
He also carried out many outstanding interior design projects in Finland, the United States and the rest of Europe, such as in the OKO Bank, Olivetti's showroom, or the Hotel Intercontinental, all of them in Helsinki.
Besides his professional career, Tapiovaara devoted much of his time to teaching, in the United States and in Finland. He considered that designers needed to learn Philosophy, because without ideas there is no design and he considered that "Leonardo was the most famous and maybe the best product designer in history."
More Information: www.ilmaritapiovaa