Aalto Isn't the Only Finnish Modernist: Meet Ilmari Tapiovaara
2014 marks what would have been the 100th birthday of one of Finland's most prolific modern furniture designers, Ilmari Tapiovaara (1914–1999). Tapiovaara, who began his career as an interior architect, was often overshadowed by Alvar Aalto, founder of Artek, the company who produced much of Tapiovaara's own work. In turn, Tapiovaara was heavily influenced by Aalto's work in both a material (bent birch plywood) and philosophical sense (that the designer's task is to "create a human environment rich with spirituality"). His pieces for Artek illustrate the idea so popular in midcentury Finland—a country less wealthy than its Nordic neighbors but blessed with abundant natural resources in the form of birch forests—that well-designed furniture should be inexpensive enough to be available to a broad audience. Later, he added frames of steel tubing to his collection of plywood and wood seating.
Tapiovaara was the subject of a retrospective at Designmuseum in Helsinki, which presented an array of sketches, prototypes, furniture, interior design, and personal archives to show his work in the context of social responsibility, as well as through the lens of Tapiovaara's longtime collaboration with his wife and colleague, interior architect Annikki Tapiovaara. Learn more about Tapiovaara's life and work—plus a testament to his influence by former Tapiovaara student and fellow Finnish design legend Yrjö Kukkapuro, whom Dwell profiled in June 2014.