Harri Koskinen has designed a turntable, which even the most discerning interior designer would love. Alongside his many other tasks, he is involved in the Iwatemo project, which has brought together Finnish design and Japanese craftsmanship. Design Stories interviewed one of Finland's most successful designers, who also gave us some top LP tips.
Where did you get the idea for the Turntable record player?
“It was inspired by my own interests and my long cooperation with Genelec, which makes active speakers. I was fascinated by the idea of a turntable as a piece of furniture; there were plenty of integrated players and televisions around in the 60s and 70s, but they have almost disappeared since then.
The furniture-like frame was made by the Finnish carpenters at Puusepänliike Wooden. Unlike old players, Turntable also supports streaming, so as well as vinyl records you can play music, via Bluetooth, from your phone or laptop.”
Do you have a lot of LPs at home?
“Yep, plenty. When I switched from vinyls to CDs, I gave up only one disc: Faith, by the Cure. And even that was a swap. Besides, I regretted getting rid of it for long afterwards, and ended up re-adding it to my collection!
I also keep selected records in my office, because listening to music helps me to stay focused. Playing LPs involves a certain ritual, which serves as a kind of meditation. They also provide a time limit for solving particular problems: I have the duration of one LP-side to focus on one issue.”
Wooden also produces your Credenza sideboards.
“From time to time, I've asked Wooden's founder, Ola Kukkasniemi, for help with various tasks. He suggested that we start making storage furniture together, and I think that we have created expressive items with a character of their own. Due to its size, the smallest Credenza Uno sideboard will hopefully make its way into many homes.
Being made of solid wood and veneer, the sideboard is a kind of hybrid. Wooden's carpenters are extremely skilled at, and highly devoted to, working with wood. Every detail and joint in the sideboard looks perfect. Beautiful handwork shows and I'm delighted with the outstanding quality. These are expressive furniture items whose role in interior decor has been thought through in advance.”
“Wooden's carpenters are extremely skilled at, and highly devoted to, working with wood. I'm delighted with the outstanding quality of the products.”
There is no backing on the sideboards. Why did you opt for this solution?
“The back panel usually provides structural support, or cover and protection if the item is in the middle of a room. However, our sideboard is so sturdy that it doesn't need a backing. This also eliminates the need for routing power cables. Rather than a modular storage system, we took the bold step of creating expressive storage furniture, to be bought after careful consideration one item at a time.”
You have also designed products for the Japanese-Finnish company Iwatemo. How did you get involved in this project?
“The project was initiated by the Japanese side. The Iwate region of northern Japan is home to many traditional craft industries, but products are sold very locally and many players are fading away. Iwate has a long-standing research center called the Iwate Industrial Research Institute, which supports craftspeople and small entrepreneurs, helping them to develop their products and businesses. Since Nordic design is highly regarded in Japan, the research center had the idea of a collaborative project, inviting Finnish designers to create a collection of products alongside local artisans.
The first delegation from Iwate visited Helsinki in 2016. They were met by one of the Finnish designers on the project, Ville Kokkonen, after which we began thinking about the project together. We also visited the craftspeople in Iwate. Even at that stage, they were unsure of what would be done and with whom. Ville and I acted as design consultants, presenting them with new perspectives and opportunities.”
Where does the name Iwatemo come from?
“The name was originally Iwatemono. Iwate is the name of the region in which the products are made. In addition, 'mono' is Japanese for 'item', 'commodity' or 'object'. The name was shortened to its current form as time went on.”
“Iwatemo’s furniture and tableware are crafted in the Iwate region in Japan. We wanted to create an interesting, small run of products for everyday use.”
Iwatemo's collection includes three sets: wooden furniture, ceramics and cast-iron kettles. Why were these products chosen?
“The research center had pre-selected small local workshops for the projects, mainly on the basis of the materials and techniques they used. Ville and I engaged in a long round of visits to familiarize ourselves with these entrepreneurs, their materials and expertise. Three entrepreneurs were eventually selected: a ceramicist, a carpenter and a cast-iron manufacturer, which had previously outsourced its production.
We wanted to create an interesting, small run of products for everyday use. Dialogue was essential to creating the collection: we wanted to leverage local skills and know-how, bringing in influences from both Japanese and Finnish culture. We aimed to make small products that came naturally to local craftspeople. For example, kettles were selected at the request of a local craftsperson.”
Will there be a continuation of the collection?
“This is the first small collection, and we have already discussed ideas and themes for the next one. As design consultants, we help brands figure out what to do next.”
What else have you worked on lately?
“The biggest project, which has been underway for a long time, involves a hotel in Kyoto. Due to open in December 2019, the hotel lies at the very heart of old Kyoto. It is an old four-story factory building being transformed into a hotel. Two architectural firms from Japan are also involved; we are in charge of design.”
What does your home look like and do you try out your own products there?
“For a long time, I only wanted other people's products at home. I used them as references for my own designs; how successful are they and how do they work. Today, I have a variety of products at home, including my own. Once the products and their prototypes have been fine-tuned, I find it a pleasure to use them myself.”
Five turntable tips from Harri Koskinen:
1. Fujiya & Miyagi: Flashback, 2019. "Enjoyable and interesting monotone nuances."
2. Timothy J. FairPlay: An introduction to consumer electronics EP, 2018. "Uncompromising songs."
3. Tominori Hosoya: Halfway, 2018. "An addictive soundscape and rhythm."
4. Daniel Avery: Song for Alpha, 2018. "Stylish, airy, progressive."
5. Andrew Weatherall: Qualia, 2017. "Mysterious and enjoyable music that works."
Who: Harri Koskinen (b. 1970)
• Studied at the Lahti Design Institute and Helsinki University of Art and Design
• One of his best-known works is the Block Lamp of 1996, which is also part of MoMA's permanent collection
• An award-winning designer, prizes include Compasso d'Oro and the Torsten and Wanja Söderberg Awards
• Koskinen's designs are manufactured by companies such as Iittala, Woodnotes, Design House Stockholm, Artek, Muuto, Wooden and Iwatemo
Designed by Harri Koskinen
Text: Mikko Vaija Pictures: Kaisu Jouppi and manufacturers