Artek was founded in 1935 by four young idealists, Alvar and Aino Aalto, Maire Gullichsen and Nils-Gustav Hahl. The business idea of the company was “to sell furniture and to promote a modern culture of habitation by exhibitions and other educational means.” The founders of Artek advocated a new kind of environment for everyday life. They believed in a grand synthesis of the arts and wanted to make a difference in town planning as well as architecture and design.
Today Artek is renowned as being one of the most innovative contributors to modern design, building on the heritage of Alvar Aalto. Functionality and timeless aesthetics are the essential elements in the creation of every product that bears the Artek name. Artek’s comprehensive furniture system is based on the original idea of standards and systems, which has its origin from Alvar Aalto’s L-system. The standard and system thinking makes the furniture range versatile and allows it to be customised for individual projects. Artek’s furniture can be found in various types of spaces; from public spaces to homes, museums to schools and hotels to offices.
The creative hub of the company is Artek STUDIO, the unit where new products and ideas are developed. Artek is continuously searching for new materials and questioning existing solutions for sustainable design. The cornerstones of the company’s product development strategy are ethics, aesthetics and ecology. In Artek, this translates into a combination of high quality, timeless classics and strong ideology in design thinking.
The core of the Artek product range consists of Alvar Aalto’s furniture and lighting pieces. Under its new portfolio strategy, Artek is looking to extend the range and, to celebrate the company’s 75th anniversary in 2010, has acquired the rights to Ilmari Tapiovaara’s furniture collection. In parallel, Artek also continues to work in close collaboration with prominent international architects, designers and artists, such as Eero Aarnio, Shigeru Ban, Naoto Fukasawa, Harri Koskinen, Juha Leiviskä, Enzo Mari and Tobias Rehberger.
Artek headquarter is in Helsinki Finland. Artek has international sales offices also in New York, Berlin, Stockholm and Tokyo. Artek is owned by the Swiss furniture company Vitra AG. Artek has five stores in Finland and one in Stockholm.
Artek maintains close relations with the family of Alvar and Aino Aalto as well as the Alvar Aalto Foundation. The exchange of knowhow is valuable for all the concerned parties.
While valuing traditions Artek has at the same time entered a new era. Combining the ideology of the radical founders and a contemporary and dynamic approach to product development, the company is more art and tech than ever.
From the moment Valaistustyö Ky was founded in Helsinki in 1952, the firm was the principle producer of the light fittings designed by Alvar Aalto. Countless different light fittings were produced under Viljo Hirvonen’s skilled direction, fittings which subsequently acquired such popular nick-names as, Golden Bell, Bilberry, Flying Saucer, or Beehive...
The exhibition provides an opportunity to take a peep into the fascinating world of light fitting production. Aalto and Hirvonen were both excited about developments in lighting. The architect valued the professional skill of the master metal-worker and described their collaboration as follows: “...these jobs involving metal are done in such a way that the source is my sketch and then an exchange of ideas evolves through countless experiments, which eventually leads us to the desired result. In this respect, director Hirvonen’s skill, interest and self-sacrifice have had a major positive effect on the quality and overall standard of the results.”
Valaistustyö Ky also produced a number of small objects for the Artek retail range. Copper and brass were used to make coffee pots, sugar bowls and cream jugs, candle-sticks, mirrors, trays and watering cans, designed by a number of people including Maija Heikinheimo, Hellevi Ojanen and Viljo Hirvonen, the master metal-worker himself.
Valaistustyö Ky was closed in 1975.