Finnish Lines

When famed architect Alvar Aalto drew up plans for a building, he designed every last inch of it, all the way down to the sleek and airy lamps. That was in the 1940s and ’50s, and it marked the heyday of Finnish lighting design. Since then, however, the industry has been driven more by technological innovation than artistic craftsmanship. Håkan Långstedt, CEO of Helsinki-based Saas Instruments, is trying to change that: this year his company launched a new series of design-centric pieces intended to revive the tradition of great Finnish lighting and restore its bygone reputation.

Saas, which is known for its high-quality fiber optics and LEDs, commissioned six lights, each from a different designer or team, stipulating only that they make use of the company’s existing technologies. “The ideas were theirs; we just gave them some components to realize them,” Långstedt says of the collection, which varies widely in aesthetics and function. Timo Salli, for instance, contributed a geometric pendant that, though constructed from optical fibers, harkens back to classic Finnish forms. Working in a more futuristic vein, Yrjö Kukkapuro and Henrick Enbom created an LED desk lamp with a pivoting transparent head that resembles a crude robotic arm. The true showstopper is Mikko Paak­kanen’s era-defying chandelier, a set of optical strands that pulsates between a limp elongated shape and a round inflated one, like a jelly­fish propelling itself silently through the deep.

A programmable motor controls the movement by alternately reeling in and letting out a tension string. Despite the collection’s diversity, Långstedt insists that something of the country’s spirit runs through­-out. “There is an effort to keep things very  honest and simple,” he says. “That, to me, is quite Finnish.”

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