Paavo Tynell created artistic light

In his day, Paavo Tynell’s atmospheric light fixtures attracted attention as far away as the United States. GUBI has brought the Finnish designer’s classic pieces back in production.

Gubi's 1965 pendant lights, design by Paavo Tynell
Paavo Tynell designed the 1965 pendant light originally for the Finland House in New York in 1948.

DANISH GUBI HAS acquired the production rights of Paavo Tynell’s light fixtures. The Tynell collection was launched in the historic Palazzo Serbelloni during the Milan Furniture Fair 2018.

Paavo Tynell (1890–1973) began his education as a blacksmith and forger rather early, first as an apprentice at G.W. Sohlberg. When he received his apprenticeship certificates in 1913, he continued his studies in Germany, but was forced to return back the following year shortly after the start of the First World War. The young man made it as far as Copenhagen before his money ran out. He got the funds he needed for the remainder of the trip only when he won a shooting contest at the famous Tivoli.

Having nearly completed all professional qualifications, Tynell still enrolled as a student to the Central School of Arts and Industry, where he later became a teacher of metal arts. Next, industry pioneer Eric O.W. Ehrström offered the opportunity to become a founding shareholder in a newly founded artistic forging plant. The other shareholders of Taito, founded in 1918, were sculptor Emil Wikström, a classmate of Tynell, silversmith Frans Nykänen and businessman and art collector Gösta Serlachius, who monitored the cash flow of the operation.

Paavo Tynell

The architects’ favorite

Paavo Tynell became the manager and chief designer of the artistic forging plant but ensured that his professional skills in the workshop remained in form as well. For the 1929 Barcelona World’s Fair, he created a silver neoclassic coffee service set, which is nowadays part of the collection of the Design Museum.

Taito created candlesticks, vases, decorative objects and even iron gates in brass, silver, and tin. By the end of the 1920s, Tynell astutely made his way into the company’s production of light fixtures, as the country was introduced with electricity at a fast rate and new buildings were being built across the nation.

The best qualities of Tynell's light fixtures are their atmospheric light and disciplined, functionalist design.

Leading architects of the time such as Alvar Aalto, Pauli Blomstedt, Erik Bryggman and Aarne Ervi had light fixtures made at Taito or requested Tynell to design them. The best qualities of the light fixtures are their atmospheric light and straight and disciplined, functionalist design. They are also durable and of high quality, because Tynell’s quality control was perfectly thorough. Many apprentices had to get used to this precise control as well, as they were educated at Taito. At best, they had 150 employees.

Gubi's 9464 wall lamp, design by Paavo Tynell
The 9464 wall lamp features a perforated brass diffuser that filters light in a beautiful manner.

In comes Helena

In January 1943, model designer Helena Turpeinen joined Taito under the recommendation of her teacher Runar Engblom. She made clean drawings of Paavo Tynell’s light fixture models, and in no time at all, their close relationship as colleagues led them to begin dating. They were married in 1947, Helena for the first time, while Paavo had already been divorced once after being married at a young age to actress Anna Helin.

At the Spring Fair that same year, Tynell proudly showed off his renewed design style. He was excited about making ambitious brass light fixtures, which are exemplified in the delicate “Lumihiutaleet,” snowflakes, of the Kestikartano restaurant, founded by the Kalevalaiset Naiset women’s organization. Colleagues teased about the fresh marriage affecting the new romantic design style.

The most unrestrained critique was put forth by arts industry influencer and sharp critic of Tynell, Arttu Brummer: “Recently Taito’s production has somewhat been an expression of little flowers, but this is likely a momentary flow – or perhaps something of a submission to American tastes – I hope that Taito returns to the style that won it its accolades.”

Gubi's 5321 table lamp, design by Paavo Tynell
The 5321 table lamp catches the eye with its sculptural shell-like shade and rattan detail.
Gubi's 1965 pendant light, design by Paavo Tynell
The 1965 pendants with a perforated, bordeuax-coloured metal shade. 

Conquest of America

In the late 1940s, Taito made its way to American markets in New York with the help of Finland House, opened in 1948. Paavo Tynell’s light fixtures were sold in the building's Finnish design boutique, but once again many architects began to ask him to create custom designs for their projects. There was an especially great need for unique wall and ceiling lamps.

The story of Finland House ended abruptly in 1954. In the same year, a notable tale in the Finnish lighting design industry came to an end as well. Despite Tynell’s resistance, Taito was sold to Idman, the company’s largest retailer.

However, there was so much demand for Tynell’s light fixtures that they were produced under license in the United States until the mid-1960s. When the market across the Atlantic dried up, Tynell, in his seventies, gave up his light fixture design. But at the couple’s villa in Tuusula’s Rusutjärvi, it was no time for resting. In his final years, the prolific man designed a line of candlesticks that were sold by the Stockmann department store. The frame was made of tinned steel and the candleholders of sheet metal.

Paavo Tynell

Who: Paavo Tynell (1890–1973)

  • Paavo (Paavali Viljo) Tynell was born in Helsinki on January 25, 1890, into the family of painter Gustav Tynell and mother Ida Tynell.
  • Sheet iron apprentice and sheet iron worker, G.W. Sohlberg, 1906–1912
  • Chaser’s apprentice, artistic metalworker, and chaser, Artistic Metalworks Koru 1912–1916
  • Studied at the Central School of Arts and Industry 1906–1917
  • Teacher of metal arts, Central School of Arts and Industry, 1917–1928
  • Founding shareholder, CEO, and designer, Taito 1918–1953
  • Light fixtures in the international Paris artistic industries fair, 1925
  • Chair of the Ornamo Managing Board, 1927–1929, 1936–1945
  • Work at the Barcelona World’s Fair, 1929
  • Work at the Milan Triennale, 1933
  • Member, State Board of Architecture 1933–1944
  • Work at the World’s Fairs in Brussels in 1935, Paris -37, New York -39
  • Designer, Idman-Taito 1953–1958
  • Designer, Litecraft, USA 1954–1958 and Lightolier, 1958–1966
  • Honorary member, Ornamo 1961
  • Died in Tuusula on September 13, 1973

See also:

Paavo Tynell's designs at Finnish Design Shop >
• Erik Bryggman's Resurrection Chapel is a gem of Finnish architecture >

Text: Kari-Otso Nevaluoma Images: GUBI

This article was originally published in Avotakka.

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