Tiedote 4.2.2016: Suomalaiset vievät kiinalaista muotia ja muotoilua länsimaihin – Uraauurtava projekti käynnistynyt Kantonissa!

Kaksi suomalaista designin ja arkkitehtuurin asiantuntijaa on käynnistänyt kiinalaisten muotoiluopiskelijoiden kansainvälistämishankkeen Guangdongin teknillisessä yliopistossa Kantonissa (Guangzhoussa). Hankkeen takana ovat kyseisen yliopiston School of Art and Design –osaston muotoilun professori, arkkitehti Vesa Honkonen sekä muotoiluun erikoistunut toimittaja ja kirjailija Hannu Pöppönen.

Made And Designed In China –hankkeen tarkoituksena on nostaa kiinalaisen muotoilun imagoa ja tehdä sitä tunnetuksi erityisesti Euroopassa ja Yhdysvalloissa. Hankkeen yhteydessä järjestetään muun muassa lukuisia näyttelyjä, joista ensimmäinen, Chinese Dreams – Chinese Contemporary Fashion, avautuu Helsingissä perjantaina 5. helmikuuta. Näyttely on esillä FYI Kallio Contemporary -galleriassa (Fleminginkatu 9) kuukauden ajan.

– Olen seurannut kiinalaisen muotoilun kehitystä pitkään ja huomannut, että kiinalaisen valmistuksen ja muotoilun taso on paljon korkealaatuisempaa kuin länsimaissa monesti luullaan, kertoo lähes 20 vuotta Kiinassa toiminut Vesa Honkonen. – Päätin ryhtyä toimimaan asian hyväksi ja oikomaan vääriä käsityksiä. On sääli katsoa, kuinka huonosti näin lahjakkaan ja potentiaalisen kansakunnan tuotantoa ja muotoilua tunnetaan ja arvioidaan, Honkonen jatkaa.

Honkonen kutsui hankkeeseen mukaan Hannu Pöppösen, joka on tutkinut vuonna 2013 ilmestyneessä Designkuplia-kirjassaan muun muassa muotoilun kansainvälistämisen ongelmia ja kehittämismahdollisuuksia. Honkonen ja Pöppönen esittelivät ideansa yliopistolle ja valmistelivat hanketta Guangdongissa kahden kuukauden ajan viime syksynä.

Helsingissä avautuva näyttely on pilottihanke, jossa esitellään kiinalaisia valokuvamalleja sekä kiinalaisten vaatesuunnitteluopiskelijoiden töitä. Valokuvissa ja videoissa nuoret mallit poseeraavat opiskelijoiden suunnittelemat vaatteet yllään ja kertovat tulevaisuuden suunnitelmistaan ja unelmistaan.

Honkonen ja Pöppönen käynnistävät Kiinassa lisäksi muotoilukilpailun, jonka kautta etsitään parhaita opiskelijoiden ideoita. He jatkokehittävät loppukisaan selviytyvien opiskelijoiden tuoteideoita ja etsivät niille kiinalaiset valmistajat. Valmiit tuotteet viedään näytteille designtapahtumiin ja alan messuille ympäri maailman.

– Kiinalaiseen muotoiluun liitetään usein kopioinnin leima ja heikko valmistuksen laatu, toteaa Hannu Pöppönen. – Haluamme hankkeen avulla murtaa tätä käsitystä ja nostaa esille korkeatasoisia, laadukkaita ja omaperäisiä tuotteita designin ja muodin alalta. Tarkoituksena on myös saada kiinalaiset muotoiluopiskelijat löytämään oma historiansa ja käyttämään sitä inspiraation lähteenä, mutta tekemään siitä uudenlainen, tulevaisuuteen katsova tulkinta, Pöppönen toteaa.

Chinese Dreams – Chinese Contemporary Fashion –näyttely on esillä FYI Kallio Contemporary -galleriassa, Helsingissä (Fleminginkatu 9), 6. maaliskuuta saakka, sunnuntaisin klo 12–16 tai sopimuksen mukaan myös arkisin (yhteydet: fyikallio@gmail.com).

FYI Kallio Contemporary –galleria: www.facebook.com/fyikalliocontemporary

Guangdong University of Technology: http://english.gdut.edu.cn

Lehdistökuvat:
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/vg9p90ic129zmqj/AABd-Eb8E5oqc0btOqx0ZNXza?dl=0

Lisätiedot medioille ja haastattelupyynnöt:
Tomi Lindblom, p. 040–528 8485, tomi.lindblom@visualmedia.fi

LIGHTS IN SILENCE SOUNDS IN DARKNESS

2003

IS SOMETHING MISSING

I do not see any difference between architecture, ballet, music, art, literature or design, or any other forms of expression. For me these definitions are just words, names given by men. What counts is the result. What counts is the memory, the mark we leave on people’s souls. I want to do architecture with all our senses.

 

In 2000 I was asked to give a lecture at the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm. Once again I forgot to send the topic of my lecture, and then at the last minute I e-mailed them the tittle: Is something Missing? I like to throw myself into this kind of trouble, to make questions for myself. Then I just have to find the answer. And then this answer will create a new question. Never-ending story.

 

I started to think about the word ‘design’. Most of the design that I see does not have any soul from my point of view. By design I mean any effort to give form: it can be to a chair, a house or a city. I decided to start this lecture with an answer to my title: Is something missing? The lecture began with loud Finnish Rock ’n’ Roll. I made the claim that the Rock is missing from our design.

 

ROCK ’N’ ROLL

First I was glad that I had the answer. I had made a claim that it is the Rock that is missing. But then I was in trouble again. Now I had to find out about and explain what is Rock ’n’ Roll. I began to study Rock. I have played in a few bands, so of course I knew the secret of Rock ’n’ Roll: It is based on three chords, only three chords, and that’s it. But at the same time I knew that when I played those three chords it was different from the Rolling Stones playing the same chords.

I decided to take a closer look at Rock ’n’ Roll music. The music I had played to my audience was Finnish Rock from the seventies. The band had been one of the best Rock ’n’ Roll bands in Europe. I decided to take a careful look at them. I found funny looking papers from their archives with weird hand written texts, like something between English and Finnish. The singer of the band could not speak English at all, so all the lyrics were written with a weird Finnish-English phonetic system. If a Finnish-speaking person would read those words as Finnish, it would sound like English. Clever.

 

What I had found out was that this band was one of the greatest English-singing Rock bands, recognized all over Europe in the seventies, and the singer could not speak English. In fact, neither could the band play very well. What was it then? It was the attitude. Rock ’n’ Roll is all about attitude. Attitude is the thing that is often missing.

 

ATTITUDE

I was content and glad for a short moment, but then the answer gave birth to a new question: What is attitude? How can we show attitude in our design? Questions find their answers, answers create new questions, never-ending story. I decided to go further on this journey. I started to study if I had shown any attitude in my own work.

 

In 1999 I had been asked to offer a design for a chain of coffee shops called Modesty Coffee in Helsinki, Finland. In order to solve issues of functionality, my client asked me to cooperate with a Swedish Service Designer. His role was to give me all the facts, the functions. I was not in any position to doubt his knowledge regarding these functions. He knew how the Barista moves, how the clients move, and so on.

 

However, he made a mistake when he presented to me a shape, a form that would fulfill these functions. It was a desk with five corners, a form following the flow of people making sharp 30-degree turns. For me, it was an ugly and meaningless shape with no character. I hated it. I started to wonder could this ugly creature really be “what this function wants to be”. I understood that the functions of these service designers were true and justified, but the shape he had created was merely a recollection from his gallery of prefixed shapes.

 

I started to study the functions. The deeper I went, the more impressed I became. I found true origins, needs, habits, laws of physics and laws of drinking coffee. The functions were true. I had to find my way to solve the shape to fulfill them, and I knew already that the service designer had created an ugly form that did in fact fulfill the functional needs.

 

I started to think of the group of functions as a fully packed truck, a huge 18-wheeler truck. The service designer was loading it; let’s call him Jack. Then I started to look for the pure form for a coffee shop counter. The height had to be some 90-100 centimeters and the depth some 65-80 centimeters, all of these taken straight from the body’s dimensions. I wanted it to be a straight bar, an archetype, a simple basic form from our subconscious.

At this point I had the pure basic shape. Then I had these functions, Jack sitting in a fully loaded 18-wheeler truck, stepping on the gas. A moment of silence, then the roaring engines throw the imaginary load of functions against the archetype material, hitting it, pushing it, molding it, leaving its everlasting traces, forming the shape. A violent act, true functions, true desire for a pure form. An act of violence, collation, and impact of forces, bending the material to fulfill the needs of the use. The form is violent; it is rough and unpolished. There has been no twisting or fooling around with the function itself. It is the material that twists. Accidental Architecture.

Then we started to build scale models at my office, bending thin metal sheets violently. We learned a lot about the laws of bending metal. If something stretches, there has to happen some shrinking elsewhere. Finally we found the shape.

After that we went to a steel factory and drove with a forklift on top of real size metal sheets. It was a great feeling to hear the metal bending, thinking that it was the functions that forced the material to twist and bend. I know that people visiting the coffee shop do not know why the shape is what it is. That does not worry me, as long as they like the result.

So now I knew that we could have attitude in our work. However, this experience led me to new questions. I had created a form by using imaginary functions and their visit to the pure material world. This was a clear example of accidental architecture and the ‘Crush and Crash’ theory that I had started already in 1998. In this text I also introduced the concept of light and darkness: I had been wondering about these issues for a while, and I am still on the same journey. I will never find the answer, but the journey will be a great one.

 

CRUSH AND CRASH IN ARCHITECTURE

10.11.1998 – 26.3.1999

 

ORIGINS AND TRACES

This is a very personal confession, a confession describing my way of thinking, describing the struggle towards something that I know exists only as a direction, movement, but not as a goal or fulfillment. This is not a lesson, and this is far from being academically valid. I am asking you all to shut your eyes to the mistakes and other technical or academic failures. This is all about enthusiasm, belief and trust in art and architecture.

 

Vesa Honkonen

Restaurant Maxill

10 Nov. 1998

 

TRACE

I am talking about violence in architecture; I am talking about noise and distortion. I am not talking about silence or the humming trees of nature. I am talking about violent function getting visualized, getting materialized, then crashing, hitting, penetrating the material, leaving its traces, space, form, shape, then vanishing to eternity, just leaving its trace. I am talking about ‘accidental architecture’.

 

CRASH

I am interested in learning about the invisible spirit, the origin of the forms, subconscious paths, indefinable ‘function’. What is the so-called ‘function’? We are often so ready to accept given things. Let’s take a closer look at the architect’s and designer’s true client: ‘function’. For me ‘function’ is the described, created or existing reason or need for something. When this need is either written or said out loud, it exists and starts to grow. It does not go away before it gets its own form. ‘Function’ is a very dangerous word; anybody can hide behind it, use it as a shield. “This is the right form since the function requires it.” But does it? Where did this form come from?

 

We are always given certain things, facts, as many people say. People move in certain ways, work in certain ways, the laws of nature, and so on. All these things create ‘functions’. As function is an imaginary concept, it is very difficult to work with it. Architects are given these ‘functions’ so that they can design something to fulfill them. I want to understand what is the ‘function’. Also, the concept of a ‘given thing’ wakes me up, makes me suspicious. Our culture’s library of forms consists of various prefixed forms for functions. Are they still valid? This is what we have to judge.

 

It happens quite often that when a designer starts to work, he or she is ready to twist and soften up the functions a little bit, so that the ‘desired’ plan, form or shape would fit in better with the functions. This means the principle: Let’s redesign the function to make it fit better the form or solution. I do not like this. I am also far from functionalistic design. However, these thoughts made me angry. I am frustrated by architecture in which the designers have designed something to fulfill the functions, yet it is so difficult to find the traces of this. Shouldn’t something as powerful as a ‘function’ leave some true traces? This woke up an idea to isolate the factors that are so important for the creation of a space or a form. Extreme isolation. It is important to understand that the function does not have to be anything rational; it can as well be an artistic intention as a solid law of physics.

 

I started to track down the original true ‘function’. I studied the essence of an imaginary function and its collation with material. Let’s call the function that can be defined the ‘I-function’ (Imaginary function). I-function is the soul, stencil, hammer, mold that is pushed, thrown, splashed against the material. Form, space, is the trace of the I-function’s visit to the material existence. ‘I’ means also that the function does not have to be too stiff or serious – but just as well, it can be that.

 

The act of creation is always at some level an act of violence, violence and beauty, pain and fulfillment. I do not mind this. What makes me angry is the violent behavior against the I-function, twisting it to make it better fit the pre-existing solution. People create, having pre-visions in their mind, and not listening to the quiet sounds telling and singing what are the true origins for the traces.

 

Generally I am not for violence. However, in this universe, the act of creation is often violent. This universe was not born with a peaceful hum; this planet was not formed with silent elegance. Violence in nature is always a fast and sudden impact of forces. Even if they seem to be random, they are not. They are always part of a bigger ‘plan’, evolution. They form a series of acts that follow the same path; they have some kind of direction, intentional or random. The whole progress can even follow chaotic order. I am concentrating purely on the act of creation. Creative violence as a sudden outburst, impact, is necessary. The most despicable form of violence is a silent, slow, twisting violence. Slowly forcing the origins to loose their connections, slowly blurring the once-so-clear view.

 

EXTREMES

For the past few years I have tried to eliminate everything meaningless, things without any character. I have learned that such things are like people without any opinions, people without the courage to stand up for what they believe in. It is more important, at least once, to make a statement than to be always right (or even worse, not be wrong ever). Even a wrong statement can wake up a positive new wave, a flow of reactions, to work as a catalyst. Being always right is being merely an amplifier, a repeater for something that other people have found out, earlier.

 

Architects with a pre-fixed library of shapes, details and forms are always working with the same solutions, just re-mixing them into a new order. Open-minded architects will reorganize their mental library, tune it to the right altitude. It is the designer’s attitude that counts. The client should never buy pre-fixed solutions; he should buy attitude, attitude towards the work of creation. Do not buy solutions: buy attitude.

 

In this search for extremes I have skipped the gray porridge between the black and white, light and darkness, silence and noise. For practice to master those gray zones someday, I have skipped them for a while. I have been practicing by creating an ‘attitude’. I only react and feel with the extremes. In a restaurant I either love orhate the food. Any creation of design, I either love or hate. In my approach to design I look for solutions that are shiny or matte, smooth or rough, soft or hard. Then I am looking for the interplay of these two extremes, creating relations, scenes. Between them: balance or tension, crisis or harmony. The play of pairs.

 

THE PLAY OF PAIRS

As so often in this universe, we run into the dualistic nature of things. Light and darkness, sound and silence. One of the most interesting pairs is related to the concept of space. What is emptiness and what is the opposite? Or is it emptiness and material? Quite a few philosophers have been working on this. I try to avoid their thoughts and walk the path on my own.

 

In any of these pairs you can find the one that presents the state of being, the rest, stability, basic state of being, the origin. The other part of the pair usually presents the force, outburst, life created with energy, energy consuming phenomena. The concept of time is bound with the force pair member. Let’s study some examples to see if it can it be like this.

 

LIGHT AND DARKNESS

Darkness is the origin, the state of being without any life or concept of space. For some people total darkness is scary and threatening. For me it is peace and rest. Light on the other hand is the outburst of energy, life. It is always somehow produced. It will last as long as the reaction causing it is alive. In light the concept of time is ‘inbuilt’. Just as an individual outburst carries time with it, two separate lights can give a meaning, dimension, time, to darkness by marking the boundaries for the indefinable darkness. An end and a starting point.

 

Light and time are far from being linear. For me they are four-dimensional. Maybe the speed of light is actually our speed departing from the origin. Maybe for me the origin, the starting point, point zero, lies on the speed of light and is at standstill at the point where the time stops. It might be that our existence, the point from which we observe, is part of the ‘force pair’, and that it is us moving at 300,000 kilometers per second, not the light. Just as in a moving car it is sometimes difficult to tell whether we are moving or whether the road is moving towards us. The point where our senses lose their meaning. Any physicist can easily destroy these sentences. That is fine. I am merely looking for my self, trying to form my own concept of existence, in order to be able to create. Do we stand still and the light moves, or does the light stand still and we depart?

 

This approach is easy to repeat with sound and silence. Total silence has no dimensions for our senses. Sound is an outburst created with energy. Sound itself has a length, which can be measured in terms of time and quantity. Music contains many extremely powerful examples of the power of silence. Two notes marking the beginning and the end of silence: usually the most powerful moment of many symphonies, a quiet moment between two notes. The wait for the next outburst: you can almost feel the time, the anticipation. Silence gets a meaning, a length, energy, life.

 

The concept of space is something that is difficult to cope with. In our Universe we have emptiness and matter. Scientists study and debate the amount of matter there has to be, visible or invisible. With all these theories there is the same danger. It is easy to get lost in the Ocean of Knowledge. Every new piece of information leads you to the next source. The more you learn, the more your anxiety grows. You realize that your knowledge is not enough. As so many wise men have said, knowing more makes you realize how little you know. This is why I have chosen the attitude that in my work, at some level, I always settle with the amount of knowledge I have at that time. Then I will build my own theory, a tool to work with, based on the current information. All the time I keep in mind that new things will come and slowly change my way of thinking. There is no ultimate truth. I call this process Progress.

 

LONGING

These thoughts continued and strengthened my longing for something that is such an essential part of the performing arts: the capability to wake up feelings, memories, and atmospheres.  Films, movies, cinema, the power to create, touch people’s souls. I envy that. I am in a constant search for this phenomenon in architecture, in design. Let’s think about a simple example: Let’s take just a few elements to make a film and see what we can do with the means of a filmmaker. Two boys, a toy sailing boat, a dry desert. Now we will create two different situations with these elements.

 

SITUATION A

Two boys, sitting in the middle of a dry, dry, dry desert, holding a toy sailing boat, staring at you with an empty look of despair in their eyes. Immediately you can read that those two boys realize that they have a sailing boat and that they would like to play. Playing would require water. They realize that they are in the middle of desert with no hope of water. Sitting, staring, no movement, all these are silent, mute, stabile things telling you a story. They either do not know how to solve it, or they are not up to going for it due to all the pain and effort it would require. A good story does not require movement, running or jumping. The silent power of a story can be reached with non-moving fragments. Why do we not go further with these issues in architecture?

 

SITUATION B

The same two boys, the same desert, the same sailing boat. Now they move, they walk to a specific direction, they walk with a determined look in their eyes. It is so clear that they are going somewhere. They walk, walk and walk. They, as well as we, know that in order to play with a sailing boat, they must find water. We can sense that they want to play and that they are on a journey to solve the problem. We can realize the effort, yet at the same time we can see that the desert is endless. These contradicting elements create a feeling of a great story, telling about either determination or madness, but in both cases with insane hope.

 

PERFORMING ARCHITECTURE

Art, the performing arts, visual arts, architecture, music, contemporary expression – they all have the same possibilities. Lately I have been studying in music samples like Offspring, Sibelius, James Brown, Bela-Bartok, Cage, and so on. All these have a structure or a non-structure, factors that have connections to our soul, playing our emotions. Just as a piece of music lives its life, is time after time reborn inside the listeners soul, so too architecture lives its life when people experience it, walk through it, walk around it, or they memorize it afterwards. In those memories, moments of experience, our work gets its fulfillment, meaning, reason.

 

If an experience is weak, it does not leave any traces or memories. Quite often in this case, the object does not have any storytelling factors, or the story is boring. Sometimes there is, of course, place for non-storytelling architecture. It is easier to realize why a movie is not interesting than analyzing why architecture is boring. I think that boring architecture has lost its connections and is impotent when it comes to the capability to transfer stories, feelings and atmospheres.

 

Vesa Honkonen, 26.03.1999

 

WHY A WOODCOCK IS A WOODCOCK

1996 – 2004

 

This text is based on spoken word lectures I held from 1996 to 2004 in which every now and then I presented this idea of a woodcock. I have never written it down before, so now it is time.

 

LOOKING FOR THE ORIGINS OF FORM

On this everlasting journey towards the origins of form I read Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species”. While I was reading, a simple question came to my mind: Why does a certain bird have the form it has; why is a woodcock a woodcock? It could have been any bird, but somehow the name ‘Kurppa’, which by the way is Woodcock in Finnish, was so great. I just fell in love with this small bird with such a weird name in Finnish. It was time to take a deeper look at Kurppa.

 

It was easy to see that the woodcock had two significant parts: legs and a beak. They give this bird its character. I started to play with them, changing them to other species of beaks and legs. The combination of a short beak and long legs made it impossible for the bird to eat. Having its own beak but other shorter legs had the same effect. His form was based on functionality.


Then I got an idea. I constructed a beak out of cardboard, some 50 centimeters long, and wore it one day. I observed carefully how it would change my ideas of design and sketched in the evening everything I had come up with. I noticed that the newspaper would need a hole, and the windscreen in my car did not work as it was. I have a habit of sleeping on my stomach every now and then. The bed needed a hole. So many things needed changes.

I have asked a few times my students to do the same test. It wakes up thoughts about how much our design is based on our physical dimensions, on our own image. This is totally ok when we are designing for ourselves or for people who are alike. However, this phenomenon does not happen only with our physical dimensions; it has its reflection as well in our mental structure, in our souls. What are our cultural beliefs and habits, what is our religion, if we have one, how were we raised up, what is our worldview – these things are always reflected in our design. We have to be aware of this. Sometimes we have to step in the other role in order to make a good result. A good architect has to be like a good actor; to be able to be somebody else but at the same time bring his own contribution or expression to the play.

 

I have asked my students what they would like to do after a day with the beak. Most of them said that they would like to cut it. This is what often happens with designers: They make a design, and if it does not work with the habits of the client, they try to change the client instead of realizing that the mistake is in their own design. Some people say that form follows function. I rather say that form has to love the function. In good design, together they are like a perfect pair. Form loves function.

SKATEBOARD ARCHITECTURE

2004

LINES ON THE PAPER

Lines drafted on the paper, forming borders, pictures at standstill. Lines define the scale for the emptiness. But I am not interested in lines. I am not interested in details. I am interested in emptiness, its soul and character. Every line I draw carries a huge responsibility and power. It cuts through the space, divides it into pieces, takes a small fragment of infinity and gives meaning to it. Meaning in four dimensions.

 

My motivation to mold the emptiness is to create places for people to live, experience life with its tears and laughter. When we draft cities, urban scenes, we create sequences of spaces where life moves in the space in between. Everything is experienced in the movement. Even if we were to sit down and wait, time moves on anyway. There is no standstill space.

 

Rooms and houses are cut out from the infinity to be spaces with their own character. I see houses like us human beings, with their own habits and whimsies. The most important characteristic factor is the space. The space is the soul. Borders, walls and details are like the signs left by life, education, childhood, life’s lessons. They give the color and flavor, but they cannot change the soul, the space. Sometimes they can blur the view, sometimes make it better and stronger. Space is from our heart, details are from our brains. Sometimes the space even tells the details. Then we just have to listen.

 

When we design an object – a lighting fixture, chair, spoon, whatever – we should concentrate more on the effects this form would cause to surrounding space, to the emptiness around. A designed object has an effect on how we approach it, how we behave close to it. At the same time, a new designed object forces the emptiness to bend away; it will reserve a certain space around it, take its share from infinity. We can mold and effect a grander space with a small object if we realize its power to take over the emptiness around.

 

SIGNS AND TRACES

Spaces are experienced with all our senses. Years ago I started to concentrate more on light. Quite soon I noticed that in order to understand the light I have to concentrate on darkness. The same thing with architecture and space. I turned my eyes from the material part to emptiness. Material elements just give meaning to emptiness. Then starts the interplay between light and material and darkness and emptiness. Light forming the emptiness, shadows painting the material. An endlessly moving play.

 

But something was missing. I noticed it while watching this play in my mind. I did not hear anything. There had to be a sound. When you start to concentrate on sound you will find silence. Movement meeting material will cause sound, sound telling about many different things: speed, materials, weight. With its echo it can tell about scale, the size of the emptiness. Sound gives a meaning and the character for silence.

 

Every time has its own storytellers. These storytellers can be extremely ordinary things, bound to its own time. Hundreds of years ago the sound of a horse carriage was an urban sound. Then came cars. Nowadays I think that in urban space skateboards are one of the new storytellers. The skateboard’s character is based on movement. While it is moving it tells with the sound from its wheels the story of different urban materials. The sound of asphalt, the sound of stone paving, the sound of concrete and sand. The sound will tell the story of speed as well. Then when you start to listen, it can tell you more. It can teach you a lesson of contrasts; the sound of a skateboard in the quiet night or during the heaviest rush hour. All the lessons are around us. We just have to be humble enough, sensitive enough to find them.

 

STORY OF A PLACE

Each place has stories. Usually it is enough if you can read and listen. People create questions when they cannot see the answers. Each place carries the answers, options, possibilities. Quite often we just have to be humble and sensitive and read the place and it will tell the answer. This does not mean that the answer will be something just merely continuing the local form language or tradition. Sometimes the place knows that it needs something new to take it further, to have progress.

 

Every place has taken its own share of infinity. It can be closed, holding the space in it, it can be open and fragile, letting the space flow through it, or it can be object-like, which affects with its own mass the surrounding space. Or it can be a combination of all of these – possibilities have no boundaries. It is important to realize that we observers, we flow through the space in time. Space is like a river with peaceful bays and strong streams and currents. Shores give restrictions to the whole stream, small stones cause an interruption to steady flow. Just as the water follows gravity, space flows with the time.

 

Each moment leaves its traces, layers on the face of a city, wrinkles of sorrow or wisdom, traces of laughter and joy. We have to be brave and take our responsibility to add our layer, to draft the lines of our times. Sometimes it is wise to honor the existing traces, sometimes it is time to proudly leave our heritage to those coming after us.

 

Architecture is easy. We just have to see what already exists and then rewrite it through our own experience with joy and humbleness. Sometimes we succeed in following our instincts, sometimes we are blinded by our brains. However, architecture has the mercy of being mortal. Time will cover our traces, buildings and cities will grow old and vanish. It is the path through the times that counts. We can build new stones for the paths that matter and that will carry us further. Weaker stones will be forgotten. What else is there than the journey. Enjoy your journey.

 

Vesa Honkonen

22 April 2004

Stockholm

POETRY IN LIGHTING DESIGN

It was a starry night in October, a few years ago. We were standing outside in the small, picturesque village of Fiskars in Southern Finland. We had darkened the whole area; all the streetlights were off. Fiskars is a 350-year-old steel mill village. A small river with a strong current runs through the middle. The river has always been the heart of Fiskars.

 

There are two small waterfalls in the very center of the village. We had built a lighting demonstration for one of the waterfalls as part of our commission to create new lighting for the area. We used just one small light caster to lift the waterfall from the darkness. Two men were there with us: our client, the Vice President of the Fiskars company, and a quiet strong man who had lived in the village his entire life. He had been helping us to build the demonstrations. The Vice President turned to ask his opinion. We were all surprised to notice that this local guy had tears in his eyes and he was staring at the waterfall. He said, whispering: “All my life I have just heard that water in the darkness; now I can also see it after 50 years, and it is so beautiful.” This experience made us think about the power of light and our responsibility as designers.

 

If we really think about it, it is impossible to work with light itself. Light is meaningless before it meets something. Light earns its life when it starts to play with surfaces, materials, places, locations. On our way to becoming lighting designers we learn about light, lamps and fixtures, but we should pay even more attention to studying the environment, places and objects, which will be our true client. Lighting a city, a town, is an extremely demanding challenge. People, past generations, have written their stories on the walls and streets. Part of the stories are written with stone and concrete, some of them live in stories and books. Then there are hidden stories which carry enormous power within: the  memories of the people. Places to fall in love, places for the first kiss, places for joy and happiness, for sorrow and loss.

 

Does a painting exist if no one is looking at it? Does a poem exist if no one reads it? Eternal philosophical questions. I have started to realize that the place where our design gets its life and meaning is not where it physically exists. We are doing our design for people to experience and feel. The space with light is created inside people’s minds and souls, where it has its final interpretation. People’s experience in our work is seen through all those personal layers of memories, education, feelings and connotations.

 

Our design is created with steel, electricity and glass; with these materials we create light. Our light meets the stones, concrete and wood the way we have determined. How well we succeed depends on our capability and sensitivity to understand the place, the location and the stories written into the common heritage of the site. We highlight something, while other things we leave to darkness. We continue the tradition of the storytellers of the place, adding our new layer to the history of the site.

 

How to be a good lighting designer? A philosophy of light – no matter how weird, sentimental or scientific, you have to have it. You have to have your own personal point of view. Then you have to be able to analyze, to read the place and your task to understand the situation. When you have all this, then you still have to be able to tell the stories of places with light. You have to be able to master the techniques at the same time. Due to these reasons we believe that a good lighting designer should understand lighting, architecture, urban design, electrical engineering physics, psychology, semiology, history, and so on. This is the reason why we believe that lighting design is teamwork. In our team we have the training of an experienced architect and an experienced electrical engineer, both with experience in lighting design. Yet even this is not enough. You have to be able to say: I do not know – let me ask somebody. With these resources we might be able to create good lighting that might rise to the level where we can talk about the Poetry of Light. The spirit, the soul, creates the poem, cities and places are our paper and canvas, and light and darkness are our pen.

 

The canvas of the lighting designer is dark black. That is where it all starts. Studies of light have made me think about the dualistic nature of things. Light and darkness, sound and silence, movement and standing still, the play of pairs. I call one the power part; the other part is the basic level, the starting point, eternity.

 

Darkness is the origin, the state of being without any life, without any concept of space. For some people total darkness is scary and threatening. For me it means peace and rest. Light is the outburst of energy, life. It is always produced, somehow. It will last as long as the reaction causing it is alive. Light has the concept of time built in it. As well as an individual outburst carries time with it, two separate lights can give a meaning, dimension, time to darkness by marking the boundaries for the indefinable darkness. An end and a starting point.

 

This approach is easy to repeat with sound and silence. Total silence has no dimensions for our senses. Sound is an outburst created with energy. Sound itself has a length, which can be measured in terms of time and quantity. Music contains many extremely powerful examples of the power of silence. Two notes marking the beginning and the end of silence: usually the most powerful moment of many symphonies, a quiet moment between two notes. The wait for the next outburst: you can almost feel the time, the anticipation. Silence gets a meaning, a length, energy, life.

 

In order to see light, study darkness. In order to hear sound, study silence. This is the poetry in lighting design.

 

Vesa Honkonen