Interior Designer Maija Heikinheimo (1908–1963) worked almost the whole of her career in the service of Artek, initially as Aino Aalto’s close working partner and, after she passed away, as Chief Designer and Artistic Director. Heikinheimo was an extremely skilled, but modest designer, who worked anonymously.
The seamless collaboration between Alvar Aalto’s architect’s office and Artek went on for several decades. Artek created the interiors for almost all the Aalto sites of that period. Maija Heikinheimo developed into a brilliant interpreter of Alvar Aalto’s ideas, and is said to have understood Aalto’s intentions from the slightest hint. Alongside new models of furniture it was on Heikinheimo’s drawing board that furniture was created, including variations on the architect’s earlier innovations.
Heikinheimo and Aalto worked closely together on the construction project for Säynätsalo Town Hall at the start of the 1950s. Aalto created the building’s unique architecture, which Heikinheimo complemented with perfectly suited furniture and interior elements. “This unique design project, and particularly the building’s main spaces, council chamber and municipal government meeting room, required special furnishings. These were largely created on Heikinheimo’s drawing board, as was the overall design of the entire Town Hall interior, in close collaboration with Aalto. Artek’s type furniture was also used to furnish the building,” says Katariina Pakoma, Senior Chief Curator at the Alvar Aalto Foundation.
Maija Heikinheimo preparing the Artek 20 Jubilee exhibition in 1955.
The exhibition put together in the gallery at Säynätsalo Town Hall opens up Heikinheimo’s work at Artek and also includes examples of her shorter working relationships with the Asko-Avonius and Wilh. Schauman furniture factories. On display here are her furniture and interior drawings made in her eloquent signature style, along with examples of furniture and small objects. Material samples related to the designer’s toolbox make it clear, for example, how “Heikinheimo blue” was defined in Artek’s colour palette. Maija Heikinheimo was a skilled designer of Artek’s exhibitions, which also brought her international attention. Examples of these Artek exhibition designs are also on display here.
The exhibition Interior Architect Maija Heikinheimo – Anchored in Artek has been produced by the Alvar Aalto Foundation and will be in the Gallery at Säynätsalo Town Hall from 20 May to 31 August, 2022.
Drawing: Perspective sketch for Suomen Matkailijayhdistys office in 1939. Drawing archive of Alvar Aalto Foundation.