Ilmari Tapiovaara 1914–1999

Often described as the designer who captured the essence of modern Finnish identity, Ilmari Tapiovaara made significant contributions to design in the post-war era. The architect and furniture designer admired the ideological beliefs of Alvar Aalto bringing functional design to everyone regardless of socioeconomic status. His high quality, but affordable work draws inspiration from the handicraftsmanship of traditional Finnish farmhouses most often created in birch wood. He designed furniture with the whole environment in mind including the architecture that surrounded it.

Tapiovaara came from a creative family—his grandfather a skilled carpenter, his older brothers Tapio a successful visual artist, and Nyrki a film director. At age 20 he enrolled in the Department of Furniture Design at the Central School of Applied Arts in Helsinki later graduating 1937. For a short time, he worked as an assistant in the office of Le Corbusier in Parisbefore returning to Finland, where he worked as an artistic director and designer for the country’s largest furniture manufacturer Asko Oy. His first designs were destroyed by bombings during the war and never produced.

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