An Artek classic with a new look: The Publics stool is part of Finnish Design Shop's anniversary collection

The Publics stool designed for the interior of the Publics library in Helsinki is part of Finnish Design Shop's 15th anniversary collection. Valerio Di Lucente, the designer of the updated version of the stool, wished to emphasize Alvar Aalto's timeless design and innovative L-leg structure.

Artek Publics Stool
Finnish Design Shop’s 15th anniversary edition of Alvar Aalto’s iconic Stool 60 is available in three colors: black, white and orange.

FINNISH DESIGN SHOP'S anniversary collection includes one of Artek's best-known products: Alvar Aalto's iconic Stool 60 from 1933. The special edition stool, available only for a limited time, will grace the Publics library and event venue that has given the stool its name.

The new colorways of the three-legged Publics stool were designed by Valerio Di Lucente, co-founder of design studio Julia, who also designed the library's interior. Furniture and lighting for the space was curated and provided by Finnish Design Shop's Contract Sales. We interviewed Di Lucente and learned how difficult it was to reinterpret Aalto's design heritage.

Artek Publics stool
Alongside the stools, Valerio Di Lucente designed the interior for the non-profit art organization Publics, located in Helsinki’s Vallila district.

How did you come up with the graphic stripe pattern for the Artek stool?
“In approaching the project I wanted my intervention to be in line with Publics and simultaneously an homage to Alvar Aalto's iconic design. So far most interventions on the stool have used the seat as a canvas, and I’ve approached it in a similar fashion but with opposite intentions, illustrating the function of what's underneath.

The L-leg, referred by Aalto as “the little sister of the architectural column” is the defining element of Stool 60. My design is an ode to it, a line that seamlessly connects the leg to the seat.

When I began working on the identity of Publics, Aalto was in the back of my mind, more in terms of approach than aesthetics. I was especially inspired by his attitude towards design as a Gesamtkunstwerk, a total artwork.

When the opportunity of working on the stool came about, it felt like a great moment of serendipity as Stool 60 was originally designed for another library, namely the Vyborg Library in 1935.”

“I wanted my intervention to be in line with Publics and simultaneously an homage to Alvar Aalto's iconic design.”

Artek Publics stool
Di Lucente’s pattern is an ode to Alvar Aalto’s L-leg, “the little sister of the architectural column”.
Artek Publics stool
When stacked, the legs of the Publics stools form a spiraling pattern.
Artek Publics stool
The colored line connects the leg of the stool seamlessly to the seat.

How does the pattern interact with the interior design of Publics’ space?
“Publics' visual language is based on vertical lines defining space. My intervention is in keeping with that founding principle but also adds another layer of meaning: the design only becomes a ‘pattern’ when in relation to other stools.

There is a tension between singular and plural, a leg between three legs. A line connects with other lines to constitute a larger drawing. This reinforces the ideas behind Publics – smaller publics along other publics aligning or pushing towards different directions.”

Was it difficult to alter such an iconic piece of design?
“It certainly was, as in reality there is not much more to add; it’s such a humble yet complex piece of design. I knew what I didn’t want this to be, so my main preoccupation was on how to establish a relation with the space and somehow pay homage to Aalto.”

Artek Publics stool
Originally designed in 1933, the Stool 60 is a versatile object that can also be used as a side table.
Artek Publics stool
Publics Library is a public research place focusing on contemporary art and publicness.
Artek Publics stool
Besides running the library, Publics organizes talks, performances, clubs and other events.

Multiple Publics stools form a fun pattern pointing to a certain direction thanks to the stripe. Would you say the Publics stool would work also as a single design object in private homes?
“It’s a small intervention that dramatically changes the dynamics of the object. I’ve imagined a scenario where everything is perfectly aligned before a talk only to be altered by people at the end of it, shifting from order to chaos. And yes, it certainly works as a single piece or maybe in a trio to keep numbers neat.”

Publics is located in the Vallila district in Helsinki, and the space used to be occupied by a flea market. What were the challenges transforming the space to a multipurpose venue and library?
“The biggest challenge was to keep it flexible yet distilling a sense of character. The library is the defining element that distinguishes Publics from other spaces so obviously it took center stage. The collection of books is more or less concealed by a set of sliding colored panels so that the books can be hidden during talks. The amount of color in the space could also offer some relief during the dark Finnish winters.

The rest of the furniture was selected by looking for pieces that carry either a strong vertical presence or an interesting relationship between vertical and horizontal. In general, I’ve chosen pieces that are more diagrammatic and would more easily relate to the library.”

“I’ve imagined a scenario where everything is perfectly aligned before a talk only to be altered by people at the end of it, shifting from order to chaos.”

Artek Publics stool
The simple, geometric pattern makes the Publics stool well suited for any environment.
Artek Publics stool
Publics Library is open to the public every Wednesday.
Artek Publics stool
The Publics stools are accompanied by a table and screen by Alvar Aalto and the Domus chair by Ilmari Tapiovaara.

Where do you live and what does your home look like?
“I live in the Testaccio neighborhood of Rome and my apartment is located in a housing block from 1915. My home is incredibly white, empty and lightly furnished, partly by choice but mostly due to circumstances. The renovation was tumultuous and tiresome – I ended up hating the architects, builders and the whole process – so at the end of it I didn’t have much energy left for furnishing.

Now I’ve found a certain peace with it and got accustomed to the emptiness that disturbs most people who visit me. The emptiness works as an antidote to my studio which is slightly chaotic, but as days pass I'm filling the void in a slow and gentle process.”

The Publics Aalto Stool 60 is available exclusively from Finnish Design Shop as a part of the online store's 15th anniversary collection. The Publics library and event space is located at Sturenkatu 37–41 4b, Helsinki, Finland. More information: www.publics.fi

See also:

Artek's Publics Aalto Stool 60 >
Design studio Julia >
Finnish Design Shop's Contract Sales >
Finnish Design Shop's anniversary collection >

Text: Mikko Vaija Images: Noora Lehtovuori

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