Tracing the spirit of 30s functional Modernism

Päivi Häikiö
Agencyleroy Amosrex Iittala 01

Tracing the spirit of 30s functional modernism

Helsinki has a new cultural destination, as Amos Anderson Museum opened doors at the classic functionalist building Lasipalatsi, originally designed by Viljo Revell, Niilo Kokko & Heimo Riihimäki, in 1936. The new museum (by JKMM Architects) gently pays tribute to the elegant details of the original construction, while the underground area simultaneously adds urban dimensions to the complex.

I get easily carried away by history. It fascinates me in general and I find it intriguing to discover the background and historical context present in visual design cases. It is essential to understand the existence of such a narrative upon designing timeless and enduring contemporary visual identities.

Last winter, we sat down with Iittala’s retail team and got the exciting news that they would be opening a new shop in the corner of the iconic Lasipalatsi building. Due to its heritage, the renovation and integration of this new commercial area were supervised by the Finnish National Board of Antiquities. Our endeavour was to concept this space so that it both honours the original look and suits the needs of a contemporary retail space. For this, we drew inspiration from archived photographs of interior similar retail spaces in Helsinki of that era and set our mindset to form-follows-function while reframing this in the aesthetics of 1930s architects.

The cream-white walls, black linoleum floors and large window frames respect original materials and colours. Drawing inspiration from the typical rounded corners of the functionalist aesthetics of that decade, we did a concept for customised wooden shelf-system with an Alvar Aalto inspired panel surface and airy shelves above rounded corner storage units. The presence of dark patinated oak in the furniture, round arc tiles, and curly birch surfaces completed the look designed by Fiskars Group’s retail designer Vesa Liuhanen. These features make it as close to the original ambience of the space as we can get, making this retail space distinctly special.

Adding to the custom-made wooden retail furniture, I scouted some original furniture pieces from the 30s. For example, the Bauhaus-inspired chairs, as well as the sideboards and tables of Pauli Blomstedt, J. Merivaara and Heteka. We did find one retail picture of a shoe shop from the same decade, which had the same kind of chairs. I think it is beautiful to honour these authentic designs and to bring them back to the location of their original era.

Given the large window spaces, the store is the perfect showcase for Iittala's mouth-blown glass pieces, made in the traditional Iittala factory in Finland.  The classic designs of the great masters as Alvar Aalto, Kaj Franck, Aino Aalto, Tapio Wirkkala, Timo Sarpaneva and Oiva Toikka are paired up with a contemporary range of glassware. The light penetrating in the newly renovated space beautifully favours the glass pieces, bringing such iconic designs to life and looking as modernistic as ever.

Discover the Iittala Amos Rex case here.

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