August 15, 2023 By Naomi Moriyama

wallpaper.com Tour Helsinki through Paavo Tynell's lights by Naomi Moriyama published on August 15, 2023
wallpaper.com Tour Helsinki through Paavo Tynell's lights by Naomi Moriyama published on August 15, 2023

In Finland, since independence in 1917, and especially during and immediately after a series of wars, the best talents from various disciplines – architecture, interiors, furniture, sculptures, textiles, and lighting – were called on to create essential public sites and private homes for the need of the young nation building.  

One of them was Paavo Tynell (1890-1973).

Tynell was a metalsmith, internationally famed Finnish lighting designer, and co-founder and chief designer of Taito Oy, established in 1818 as the first industrial producer of lighting fixtures in Finland, with the goal of manufacturing objects from gold, silver, bronze, and iron. 

With the spread of electricity in the early 20th century, by the 1940s, 99% of the dwellings in Helsinki had electric lights, and streets were lit at night. Tynell designed lights for many monumental buildings in his homeland and abroad. In his time, light must have symbolized hope, warmth, comfort, prosperity, vision, and life itself more than recent decades.  

Tynell merged functionalist and personal romantic motifs inspired by nature like flowers, leaves, snowflakes, and seashells. He used natural materials like rattan to wrap lamp stems that created textural and visual contrasts with metal and glass, as well as the ease of holding a stem to move the lamp around.

Tynell’s lighting designs from the 1930s to 1950s are illuminating some of the most prominent public spaces in Helsinki to this day. Anyone can walk into these buildings right now to be awed by their sculptural beauty and be emotionally uplifted by the intricate light-shadow ambiance that fills the spaces.

Imagine getting off an intercity train at the Helsinki Central Station, which was designed by Finnish-American architect Eliel Saarinen (1873 – 1950), was inaugurated in 1919, and is considered one of the world’s most beautiful terminals. 

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