I sometimes believe the spirit of Finland repeatedly knocks upon my door. I don't mind the knocking, so much, because on a personal level I believe I could grow to love Finland (not having been there yet) and goodness knows I certainly love it's people and seem to have an affinity for attracting Finns in my life. Nevertheless it always rather surprises me at how often, and in such unexpected ways, Finland comes to visit me.
Some weeks ago while undergoing construction at my house, I found a knife with the inscription of Tapio Wirkkala on the blade. I knew the name was a Finnish name and I liked the simplicity of the knife design. I really didn't think much about it... other than "how strange to find a Finnish knife at my house." I put the knife upon my bookshelf and pretty much forgot about it.
Today I received via email my installment of MetropolisMag. Huh... an article about Eero Saarinen catches my eye in an article entitled Predicting the Future, a new exhibition at the Cranbrook Art Museum. The museum is hailing Saarinen as "an architect way ahead of his time." Knowing a bit about Finnish culture and art history, I know Saarinen was the architect responsible for the St. Louis Gateway Arch. Indeed, a beautiful curvaceous structure, despite whatever Vince Scully has to say. I found the article to be quite interesting and decided to click some links and learn more about the Finnish born architect.
Saarinen's father, Eliel, was also an architect and went to Cranbrook to design the art academy, school and museum. Eero was 15 and the family accompanied Eliel to the job site. Later Eero graduated from Yale University. It would appear (and here's the stuff I love about art history... somehow everything seems to fit together) that while at Cranbrook, Eero met up with Charles Eames and together they developed the very famous Eames Lounge Chair. Huh... what do ya know? It just seems these Finns are all over the place!
I decide to do more research on Saarinen and now I'm kinda interested in the relationship with Eames as well. I discover that Eames is the guy responsible for this very cool film I saw 15 years ago, called Powers of Ten. (If you haven't seen it, you must!) I had no idea that the Eames chair guy was the same guy responsible for this movie.
Ok...enough about Eames I want to know more about the Finn. I discover on www.eerosaarinen.net that "Shaping the Future" is a TOUR beginning in Helsinki, continuing on to Cranbrook and other destinations and ending right here in New Haven in 2010 the centennial of Saarinen's birth. Saarinen, I learn was also responsible for The General Motors Technical Center (1948-56), and the TWA Terminal (1956-1962) at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport. I think one of the quotes I like from Saarinen is from Jayne Markel's article at Metropolis. Talking about the film (yes yes..a documentary has been made), Markel includes a quote from Saarinen, “Technology has given us the ability to do almost anything we want. Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies, and Le Corbusier have given us the ABCs. It is up to us to develop the language of Modern architecture.” WOW... it all sounds so Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead, doesn't it?
Wikipedia has a section on Finnish Designers. Crazy! And here is where I learn about Tapio Wirkkala... remember, my knife? The knife is called a Puukko. It's a specific carving knife, designed by Tapio, a major figure of post war design. Wirkkala's range was pretty vast as he designed not only knifes but the Finnish Markka banknotes introduced in 1955, stoneware, jewelry, sculpture and glassware. Guess who designed the Finlandia Vodka bottle from 1970-2000? Yup... Tapio, my knife guy. And that knife... the designer used a traditional Finnish carving blade to do much of his design work and later developed his own variation, the Wirkkala Puukko, which was built by Hackman Cutlery and marketed in the US in the early 70's by Brookstone.
Well ok...that's enough on Finnish Art History for tonight. I'm off to bed to read The Kalevela and get some sleep.