take a seat

Dealing with chairs with Jukka Savolainen, the director of the Finnish Design Museum

27.03.2012 ways of seating Sam Baron



Last month I was in Helsinki and I decided to go to the Finnish Design Museum to meet its director Jukka Savolainen. We talked about the museum’s amazing collection and, in particular, about which chair he prefers.

Can you speak about a chair that is in your permanent museum collection?

Our collection, which is the national design collection, is roughly 75,000 pieces and chairs, of course, form an extensive part of it. As a sample of our collection and Finnish design, I would pick Alvar Aalto’s so called small “Paimio” chair from 1932.

Where and when was it designed and produced?

The chair “42” was designed for the Paimio sanatorium and it brings together a forward looking aesthetic language and a revolutionary use of materials. The formal language has its roots in the tubular steel chairs of the Bauhaus, but in this chair Alvar Aalto was able to transform the aesthetical language to a completely natural material that was soft and comfortable, also emotionally, for the user.

How can you explain that this chair is a symbol of your museum attitude/way of looking at design?

The chair is a seamless collaboration between the designer and the manufacturer, resulting in a design that revolutionized design thinking and opened up possibilities for other designers and manufacturers alike.

The last exhibition you curated was about a global view on design, so how can you balance Nordic design with the design of the rest of the world?

Nordic design has always had a dialogue with the rest of the world, like the Aalto chairs shows. Sometimes it is the Nordic design that is showing the way forward; other times it is following ideas from elsewhere, like Italy in the 1960’s. Today in the global village that we live in, it is important to balance what you do to the international context and use your local knowledge and know-how to differentiate yourself from the masses by building a sustainable future.

Helsinki World Design Capital 2012, a nice place to sit and look around?

Now that Helsinki is the World Design Capital, there are a lot of nice places to come and sit down. The most interesting and vibrant location is the Pavilion between the Design Museum and the Museum of Architecture from May to September. The Pavilion is the meeting place and hotspot for WDC activities in Helsinki and it is guaranteed to give you a good seat and a good view to Helsinki and Finnish design.

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