Ilmari Tapiovaara

Ilmari Tapiovaara

(1914 - 1999)

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about Ilmari Tapiovaara

ILMARI  TAPIOVAARA (1914 - 1999)

Ilmari Tapiovaara was born in Finnland on September 7, 1914. Tapiovaara studied at the Taideteollisuuskeskuskoulu in Helsinki. After he had finished his professional training as an industrial designer and an interior designer, Ilmari Tapiovaara was searching for the perfect chair for the rest of his life: Tapiovara designed chairs which are easy to demount, stackable or easy to transport. The most famous design is still the chair “Domus”.    

Besides working as a furniture designer, Ilmari Tapiovaara also worked as a graphic designer, photographer, interior designer and an architect. Tapiovaara designed glassware, stereo systems, lamps, cutlery, textiles and even some toys. During his most creative period from 1951 to 1960, Ilmari Tapiovaara received six gold medals from the Milan Triennale – more than any other designer ever got.

But his actual life’s work is a lot more theoretical: today Ilmari Tapiovaara is seen as the most important link of the international design of the 20th century. He worked at the office of Le Corbusier in Paris and for Alvar Aalto in London. Later on Eero Aarnio and Yjörk Kukkapuro were among Tapiovaara´s students. During his time in Illinois, where he worked as a guest lecturer at the Institute of Technology, he maintained a lively exchange with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

In that way Ilmari Tapiovaara spread the different movements and styles of the design in the 20th century among the different actors and also taught them: for example at the Academy for Art and Design (today: Taideteollinen Korkeakoulu), the “University for Technology” in Helsinki or as a consultant for production and design for “UNIDO” (United Nations Industrial Development Organisation).

In 1971 Ilmari Tapiovaara was awarded with the Finnish state prize for design, and from 1959 until 1968 he was the chairman of the Finnish association of designers. Later on he became an honorary member of this association.  

As a theoretician as well as an active designer Ilmari Tapiovaara coined and determined the design of the 20th century. Tapiovaara´s designs are not ranked among the most expensive ones at auctions today, but nevertheless, with his life’s work, he contributed a lot to many of the world famous designs we know today.  

Ilmari Tapiovaara died in Finland on January 31, 1999.