“Finnish design does not ingratiate anyone”
Designer Harri Koskinen has had a busy September in London. He has been caught up with the London Design Festival’s pop-up restaurant HELYES! and the launch of Skandium’s first furniture collection, Bello, which he designed.
For Koskinen the most interesting thing in Finnish design is its “absoluteness, and that we do not ingratiate anyone. And besides, the mentality – the Finns are not Scandinavians but they originate far away from the outskirts of Russian borders.”
Harri Koskinen (40) is one of the most famous Finnish designers abroad. He has worked for all renowned Finnish design houses from Artek to Marimekko and for a bunch of international clients such as Alessi and Issey Miyake. Koskinen’s best-known work is probably the Block lamp, housed in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. He has received several internationally renowned designer awards including the Compasso d’Oro in 2004 and Torsten and Wanja Söderberg’s designer award in 2009.
In Bello, the furniture collection he designed for Skandium, Koskinen has combined straightforwardness and mellow forms. Skandium gave Koskinen fairly strict instructions on the look of the collection. Koskinen describes Bello as a “very functional collection” and while designing it, he was aiming to create “even simpler figures than usual”.
Skandium is the most famous retail boutique of Nordic design in Great Britain and it has been bringing several Nordic brands to its London store for past ten years. During London Design Week, Skandium launched its first own collection: Bello.
What made Skandium owners Chrystina Schmidt and Magnus Englund chose Koskinen to design this collection? “We chose Harri, because of his ability to deliver ‘non design’: just simple objects of timeless beauty. Simple, good quality helpers in everyday life,” says Schmidt. “Skandium needs products which fill a consumer gap in a wide market. Our products will foremost always be commercial as we need to sell. We are not a design company but a commercial enterprise needing products and margins to make ends meet in a highly competitive and extremely expensive market. We don’t like design. It is overvalued, especially with the star status claimed by designers and made up by the press. It’s pathetic.”
Schmidt says London customers appreciate Nordic design’s usability and good quality along with the timeless form that allows it to last longer than ‘fashion’ dictates. “The interest is in the connotation classic pieces have, as they are part of a bigger ‘story’.”
To mark the launch of the Bello collection, Skandium has put together an exhibition showing some of Koskinen’s earlier work and versatility: it includes glasses, vases, Finlandia Vodka bottle, trays, a couch, a bag and lamps. What is the designer’s own favourite? “Probably the Oma tableware collection, which I designed for Arabia: it is easy to carry around from home to work.”
Koskinen has many projects underway this autumn. He will be working for many companies in industrial design, particularly in architecture. His next big project is in Tokyo, where Koskinen has widened his designer scope to architecture. More information on the project will be published soon.Koskinen is one of the main designers of the ongoing project of London Design Week’s pop-up restaurant HELYES!. He describes the project as “an extraordinary spectacle”, which has required him to visit London more often than usual. Has he eaten in the restaurant? “No, not yet but I am about to go there tonight!”
The exhibition of Harri Koskinen’s designs is at Skandium, Brompton Road, London until 8 November.
Text: Sara Vihavainen and Tiina Heinilä, Embassy of Finland
Photos: Huippu Design Management and Tiina Heinilä, Embassy of Finland