Designer Matti Klenell designed the unique Putki lamps blown in Iittala for the renovated restaurant of the Swedish Nationalmuseum. In addition, the team led by Klenell created more than 80 new items for the space, from dishes to furniture. The museum, which was under renovation for seven years, opened its doors in October.
How did the idea for the Putki lamp arise?
“We wanted to create fairly large lighting fixtures for the windows of the space as the Nationalmuseum building is impressive in terms of size. We also wanted the lamps to be made of glass and that they would show, in one way or another, the process of glass-making as the whole concept of the interior design is based on highlighting the production process of the items instead of finished masterpieces, of which the Nationalmuseum is already full. The windowsills on which the lamps are placed are important for the ventilation of the space. That is why the lamps had to have a tube-like shape.
I came to think of the Iittala Cup, which is held every year. It is an unofficial championship competition for glassblowers, one component of which is blowing as high a tube as possible into a mold. This gave me the idea for a candelabrum-shaped window lamp consisting of glass tubes of different heights, reflecting light and the skill of glass-making.”
“I could not have imagined the lighting fixtures to be made anywhere else but Iittala.”
What does the Iittala glassworks mean to you?
“I could not have imagined the lighting fixtures to be made anywhere else but Iittala. I knew that champion glassblowers Heikki Punkari and the now retired Risto Sipilä are the undisputed masters of the field, and it was therefore very natural to contact Iittala.”
How did the design of the restaurant space concept progress? Were there any surprises along the way?
“This project was full of constant surprises. Carina Seth Andersson, TAF Studio, Stina Löfgren and I formed the core design team, and we had invited some 25 other designers along. We created about 80 new products in total, from mass-produced porcelain to prints and sofa modules and from hand-woven fabrics to a unique wall mirror.
It was quite a feat to keep it all together but, on the other hand, this was a once in a lifetime project where you can learn something new every day.”
How would you like museum visitors to experience your work?
“I hope that they will have a strong desire to return. We wanted to create an environment where everything may not be visible at once, but revealed gradually.”
Your first name suggests that you may have Finnish roots. Is that the case?
“No, unfortunately. I was named after Bertolt Brecht’s play Mr. Puntila and his Man Matti, which was being played by the Gothenburg City Theater when I was born in November 1972. But because of my name, I have had a special relationship with Finland since I was a child, even before I visited Finland for the first time. Consequently, I am really happy and grateful for the collaboration with Iittala, which started more than ten years ago, as it has provided me with many reasons to cross the Baltic Sea.”
The Swedish Nationalmuseum was opened after renovation on 13 October 2018.
Text: Anu Karttunen Photos: Agency Leroy