Yrjö Kukkapuro - Designer
18.1.- 6.4.2008 

Exhibition at Design Museum in Helsinki

This exhibition presents the career of designer and interior architect Yrjö Kukkapuro from his early works designed in 1956 to his most recent ones from 2007. Kukkapuro's oeuvre is characterized by a strict command of form and the carefully considered use of details. Throughout the decades his ideal has been the human body and its lawlike regularities. Kukkapuro has been the head designer of the Haimi, Lepokalusto and Avarte companies. He is known for his design of public spaces and as a solid collaborating partner with the architectural profession. This means that all Finns have at some stage of their lives sat in a chair designed by Kukkapuro, for example in a bank, theatre, auditorium or hospital.

Born in 1933 a chimneyless cabin near Viipuri and having spent his youth in Imatra, Kukkapuro first dreamed of a career as a painter. In 1956, however, he went to study furniture design at the Institute of Applied Art in Helsinki.

Kukkapuro's first successful collection was Moderno, created in 1957 and still in production. Inspired by the ergonomics of the human body, he designed dozens of fiberglass chairs in the 1960s, for example Karuselli from 1965, his most widely known chair design on the international market. 

In 1973 Kukkapuro moved on to strict minimalist design, finally turning his back on plastic materials. His products of the 1970s include the Remmi chair, with a tubular frame. Birch plywood became Kukkapuro's main material, leading to countless chair versions, including the Fysio office chair, which has won international prizes and awards.

The period of postmodernism in the 1980s reintroduced colours and decorative forms into Kukkapuro's designs. The ergonomic approach became increasingly prominent. Works of this period include the Experiment collection and the Sirkus office chair.

The 1990s introduced ecological challenges and a new visual image. Kukkapuro began to employ prints and abstract designs on the plywood backrests and seats of his chairs. Well-known works of this period are the "tattooed" chairs and cross-disciplinary installations such as "Magic Room", a kinetic spatial work, of which reproduction will be on display in the exhibition at Design Museum.

Kukkapuro's versatile career has led him around the world, most recently to China, where he lectures and serves as an expert on design. Collaboration with the Nanjing Forest University has introduced a new dimension in his work. As the design expert for a UNESCO bamboo project he has discovered fast-growing giant bamboo as a material. Glued bamboo laminate is a recyclable, environmentally friendly and extremely durable wooden material. Kukkapuro's bamboo furniture collection, designed in 2004 for the domestic Chinese market, will now be on show for the first time in Europe.

Kukkapuro continues to work, his most recent achievement being the Element sofa and armchair collection from 2007. Produced with digitized methods, the items of the collection can be assembled from elements. Kukkapuro and his wife, graphic artist Irmeli Kukkapuro, live and work in the studio and home that they built at Kauniainen near Helsinki in the 1960s, a single space of 200 square metres.

The Design Museum showing presents a broad overview of Kukkapuro's work, featuring furniture and their prototypes, light fittings, spatial works, a compilation of video documents etc. Visitors may test some of the chairs on show.

A richly illustrated catalogue of approximately 200 pages will be published in Finnish and English versions in connection with the exhibition.

Yrjö Kukkapuro
Yrjö Kukkapuro/Haimi, Karuselli 1965. photo Rauno Träskelin.