The Iconic and the Everyday: Creative Finland in America
The Iconic and the Everyday exhibition proposes an explicit condensed assertion of the contemporary presence and influence of Finnish design, industry and identity in the United States.
The Iconic and the Everyday exhibition ambition is to produce a composite understanding of the presence and strength of Finnish architecture, design and industry in the lives of everyday Americans – and to benefit both nations’ mutual appreciation and understanding. Creative Finland – Finnish architecture, design and industry – has been a strong presence in American culture, since at least the mid-twentieth century.
The most clearly “iconic” is the distilled exhibition of the primary architectural works Finnish architects have contributed to American life, either in built form or in projected form; the built works by Eliel Saarinen, Alvar Aalto, Eero Saarinen and Mikko Heikkinen and Markku Komonen have also become part of the “everyday” life of those who inhabit them. The most clearly “everyday” is the exhibition of the objects, tools, furniture, and implements of Finnish design and industrial production that populate and activate the daily lives of American citizens – a density of Finnish identity often without any acknowledgement. But these objects, too, possess an “iconic” character in the clarity and purposefulness of their design.
The exhibition’s installation components are lightweight, simply assembled, made primarily of wood, and suggestive of a landscape: a forested shoreline, perhaps. The iconic images of architecture are organized and incorporated into four panels punctuating the sinuous rhythm of the installation cabinets and shelves. The everyday objects of Finnish design and manufacture are composed into both singular and serial displays of the actual things – available for both the eye and the hand.
The Embassy of Finland in Washington, DC is an exceptional example of contemporary architecture in the United States’ capital city. The Embassy demonstrates the characteristic elegance, simplicity and transparency and in so doing, proposes a parallel representation of Finland’s national character.
The display vitrines for the exhibition needed to be as transparent as possible to preserve the connection of the chancery space to the forest beyond while ensuring functionality for parties, concerts and other events.
The exhibition layout is primarily composed of two basic vitrine types: a 10 degree and a 20 degree arced plan. These primary vitrine type comprises 24 of 31 overall vitrines. Only seven secondary vitrines are used. Designed to be flipped both front to back and top to bottom, this simple kit of parts allows a high degree of customization and flexibility in configuration, especially when the secondary vitrines types are interjected.
The vitrines were modeled in Revit, unfolded and exported to be cut out on a CNC router. Each piece type was optimized against the plywood dimensions of 1.5m x 3m.
The curved entry stair delivers visitors into a four storey space before they pass into the two storey chancery space.
Exhibition in the chancery from the atrium at the base of the entry stair (top)
Flattened exhibition elevation (bottom)
The open white vitrines allow early morning sun to pass through, illuminating the objects within. Five large plywood panels punctuate the horizontal exhibition layout, four featuring the work of iconic Finnish architects and one with signage and information about the exhibition itself.
Completed exhibition from center of chancery towards Woodland Normanstone Terrace Park to the north.
Whitewashed poplar columns sit between the vitrines, connected via ¼” x 4” round aluminum standoffs. The standoffs mostly disappear, making the vitrines appear to float in front of the glass.