Iittala – Kaleidoscope from Nature to Culture @ Design Museum

Design Museum Helsinki, 26 March – 19 September 2021

The Design Museum has invited architect Florencia Colombo and industrial designer Ville Kokkonen to create the concept for and engage in research as the curators of an exhibition on the 140-year history of world-renowned Finnish design brand Iittala. Glass and adored design classics take the spotlight in this exhibition. The comprehensive Iittala collection of the Design Museum – over ten thousand items – and its extensive archives of documents and images are the curators’ primary resources, complemented by items on loan from private and public collections. The Iittala – Kaleidoscope: From Nature to Culture brings the history of the company together in one place in an unforeseen manner and intensively reflects the developments of Finnish society.

Practically all Finns are familiar with the Iittala brand that has also gained international recognition. The timeless design pieces produced by the company are found in most Finnish homes. The history of Iittala does not follow a linear path but rather a complex network that is deeply embedded within the cultural, political and social evolution of Finnish culture. The company soon became immersed in the core of Finland’s industrial and creative development, while participating in the delineation of the design field of the Nordic region in a significant way.

The history of Iittala reflects the changes in the world around, the flux of aesthetic and ideological movements and consequential shifts in ways of life. At the same time, it reveals a continuity of deep-rooted values connected to craftsmanship, creativity and social conscience, as well as the preservation of traditions linked to Finland’s inherent dialogue with nature

The Iittala story in a new light

Colombo and Kokkonen invite the visitors to discover the diverse resources featured using around thirty themes that are deeply intertwined. These themes are the building blocks of exploring the multidimensional world of Iittala’s 140-year history, introducing a many-sided and comprehensive story of people, objects, techniques, ideas, and events. Under each theme, you will find an abundancy of objects shedding light on the theme from different perspectives with prototypes, everyday objects and works of art, side by side. These themes, and the objects featured in them, also let you discover the development of Iittala objects from raw materials and design and manufacturing to the daily lives of people.

The curators explain the concept of Kaleidoscope:

“It is impossible to grasp the essence of Finnish design without understanding the dialogue between its nature and culture. In the Nordic region, an ideological concept of beauty linked aesthetics to societal change. Beauty assumed, in this sense, a revolutionary character. Reflected in Iittala’s glass, Finland’s boreal ecosystem assumed a critical role in the creative language of many designers, embedded in their conceptual universe, artistic expression or interwoven in the stages of their creative processes. Glass informed a unique language of communication.”

The development of Finland’s 20th-century culture introduced new variables into the realm of glass, extending beyond the table to interiors and lighting.

“The development of contemporary consumer culture introduced new modes of socialization and rituals, influencing formal and functional experimentation, the role of colour as well as the extension of Iittala’s material spectrum. Glass nevertheless remained at the core of the brand’s essence.”

A book and a series of events on responsible consumption
A book will be published associated to the exhibition and the programme will feature a series of events on the theme of responsible consumption curated by journalist and writer Koko Hubara.

The book is a work on Iittala written by the curators and published by Phaidon. In the book, Colombo and Kokkonen reflect on the cultural role of the company in the past, future and present, and it offers a diverse picture of the brand and its heritage. The book also places Iittala on the world map of design through its many themes and eras.

In co-operation with Iittala

Thanks to Innolux, Kobra Agency, Nikon Nordic, and Universal Robots.

© Carl Bergman 2021


About the curators
Florencia Colombo is an architect and Ville Kokkonen is the director of Ville Kokkonen Office For Industrial Design, a practice driven by technological and scientific discovery. Based in the Swiss Alps, their joint enterprise, Colombo / Kokkonen, specialises in the conceptual, editorial, and design direction of cultural projects. At the intersection of architecture, design, and the social and natural sciences, the practice applies holistic thinking to research, curating, and publishing.



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