Finland: Designed Environments

Finland Designed Environments; Tanja Orsjoki; Kelohonka fabric; 2008MIA Examines Creative Explosion in Finnish Design Over the Past 15 Years

Exhibition Timed to FinnFest USA, A Celebration of 150 Years of Finnish Presence in Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS, FEBRUARY 26, 2014–This May, the Minneapolis Institute of Art will present a wide-ranging exhibition devoted to Finnish design of the past 15 years. On view May 10 through August 17, “Finland: Designed Environments” will examine how nearly every aspect of Finnish life incorporates thoughtful design thinking—from city streets and summer homes to fashion and food—and is marked by sensitivity to form and material. The exhibition is the first significant U.S. museum presentation since the 1990s to examine contemporary Finnish design.

“Finland has long been a design leader for the world, as well as a catalyst for applying design principles in new fields,” said Jennifer Komar Olivarez, associate curator of decorative arts and curator of the exhibition. “Notable for its creativity, pragmatism, excellence, and ubiquity, Finnish design is changing how we interact with our environments for the better. As the world, and particularly the United States, continues to urbanize and become more ecologically conscious, there are many lessons Finland can teach us—from how we design our urban environments and arrange our homes, to the thought-provoking areas of sensory, graphic, and system designs.”

Major themes will include architecture and urban design, sustainability, and new areas of design. In architecture, projects of young Finnish firms who have been gaining international recognition for their bold designs will be highlighted:

• K2S Architects’ Kamppi Chapel of Silence, a contemplative space in a busy Helsinki Square

• The all-female firm Hollmén Reuter Sandman’s Women’s Center in Rufisque, Senegal, a hybrid of traditional African architecture and Finnish innovation

• Verstas Architects’ Kirkkojärvi School in Espoo, an ecological and light-filled environment for inspiring hands-on learning—a method of educating in which Finland excels

The exhibition will also show the crossover between contemporary Finnish and American design with the inclusion of David Salmela’s Bagley Nature Center at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. The Finnish-American architect’s strong geometric forms, integration of nature, and emphasis on environmental stewardship create a dialogue between the designs and values of work being done in and for Finland and work being done in and for the Upper Midwest.

“Finland: Designed Environments” is divided into five thematic areas:

• The City Redefined considers how urban design is reshaping the quality of Finnish life, from contemporary architecture integrated into historic districts, to increased interest in alternative transportation such as bicycles.

• Relax, Recharge, and Reflect examines Finnish cultural life through the lens of summer homes, saunas, and recreation, reflecting the integral connection in Finnish life between people and nature.

• Artful Living showcases objects for the home, ranging from furniture, textiles, glass, ceramics, lighting, and designs for children.

• Design and the Body explores Finnish identity expression through thoughtful fashion and contemplative art jewelry.

• New Design Realities investigates innovations in areas of sensory design, graphic design, food and design, and systems design.

Drawing upon the richness of Finland’s forward-thinking design community, the exhibition will feature a number of projects from the World Design Capital Helsinki 2012, a biannual international initiative highlighting the accomplishments of cities that leverage design to improve their social, cultural, and economic life. These include:

• The Helsinki World Design Capital (WDC) 2012 Pavilion, designed by members of the Aalto University Wood Program as a temporary “living room” between the Design Museum and the Museum of Finnish Architecture;

• The Finnish maternity box distributed by Kela, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland, to new parents, specially redesigned for WDC 2012 with a lively “Family Tree” theme;

• Ceramic artist Karin Widnäs’s For Savoy dinner service, celebrating the WDC Helsinki 2012 year, as well as the 75th anniversary of the Savoy Restaurant, designed in 1937 by Alvar and Aino Aalto.

“ Finland’s example of innovative practice is particularly appreciated here at the MIA, where we are always exploring ways to better design an engaging present and sustainable future,” said Kaywin Feldman, director and president of the Minneapolis Institute of Art. “We are also delighted that the exhibition coincides with FinnFest USA this August. Minnesota’s culture owes much to the Finnish immigrants who settled this part of the country, and we continue to feel and celebrate this influence. Minnesota and Finland share many connections, historic and contemporary. Even now, our state has a thriving contemporary Finnish and Finnish-American community.”

Feldman added, “With this exhibition, we look forward to drawing new connections between contemporary Finland and the United States. ‘Finland: Designed Environments’ explores Finnish design through a lens of innovation, which also resonates with museums, and the MIA in particular. Here we are exploring and implementing new practices to design our institution’s engaging present and sustainable future. ‘Finland: Designed Environments’ builds on the MIA’s commitment to telling the history of design, bolstered by the Norwest Modernism Collection—with great strengths in 19th- and 20th-century objects—as well its important collection of Prairie School architecture and design.”

A fully illustrated e-book will accompany the exhibition, with a print-on-demand option. It will include essays by Jennifer Komar Olivarez, associate curator, MIA; Jukka Savolainen, director, Design Museum, Helsinki; and contributions by Finnish design and architecture experts including Juulia Kauste, director, Museum of Finnish Architecture, Helsinki; and Mikko Kalhama, CEO, Design Forum Finland.

“ Finland: Design Environments” is organized by the Minneapolis Institute of Art. It is supported by the Consulate General of Finland in New York and the American-Scandinavian Foundation.


Anne-Marie Wagener, (612) 870-3280;

Tammy Pleshek, (612) 870-3171;

Emmalynn Bauer, (612) 870-6364;