“Nowadays, i just try to simplify things” – artist professor yrjö kukkapuro designed the recently-launched luminaire almost four decades ago
Interior architect and designer Yrjö Kukkapuro’s Perhonen (butterfly) has flown into the Innolux Heritage spring collection. The playful and colorful element gives the streamlined floor lamp a unique look. This is the first production run of this luminaire, with Kukkapuro’s distinctive design style and its visible fastenings providing interesting details. But what is the story behind the design item, originally created as the result of a design error in Kukkapuro’s studio home? These and other questions were answered by the Finnish design legend, also known as ruuvimies (screw man) on account of his penchant for leaving the screws and other fastenings of his creations visible. Kukkapuro says that he was most inspired by the decades he shared with his artist wife.
A luminaire as an object – what is its function? And how do you see the role of lighting in interior design?
I usually think about things in terms of function. Luminaires are needed to bring brightness where daylight is absent or insufficient. And if it’s visually appropriate to the space and the architecture, that can only be a good thing. You can radically change the mood of a space with light. It’s one thing to be in the operating theater, another to be in a living room at dusk. In my own environment, I usually want both bright working light and mood lighting when evening comes. I like soft light.
What is the role of light in your work?
Light and its sources have been very important in the interior design projects in which I have been involved in designing furniture. In the course of my career, I have designed several dozen public spaces where lighting has been enormously important. In collaboration with architects, we carried out projects in which light and lighting provided a brilliant environment for my furniture.
What is the story of the luminaire model that is now being launched?
The Perhonen floor lamp was originally created for our studio home in Kauniainen. The building was completed in 1968, and it was a rather experimental environment. I made a small mistake in the design – I forgot to design electrical points for lighting fixtures on the ceiling. There was nothing for it but to design my own collection of lamps that stand on the floor.
Then, the postmodern wave of the 1980s made bright colors and distinctive shapes all the rage in design. I wanted to design a new lamp with adjustable color elements combined with a minimalist leg and base. Plexiglass was a good material – it’s translucent and enabled the use of an imaginative color palette.
What is the role of color in this Innolux lamp, or in your work in general?
Colors have become more and more important in my work since the 1980s. I have, first and foremost, been a functionalist whose work is based on ergonomics and aesthetics. My wife, Irmeli Kukkapuro (1934–2022), was a graphic artist and painter, and I always drew inspiration from her. My color palette has been wide, but the basic colors of constructivist art have certainly been my mainstays. I have only designed a few luminaires, and they all have a strong visual impact.
What is your creative process like?
I often plan in my head for a very long time before moving on to actual implementation. My work process also involves precise technical implementation – I love components and joints. My assistants have always considered me to be very precise about things, and I have been called a ruuvimies or “screw man” in the furniture industry. This is because in my work, all fastenings and components are allowed to be visible in the finished item. This can also be seen in the Perhonen lamp. This approach means the product is also repairable.
How did you choose Innolux as your partner?
Jukka Jokiniemi and I had been thinking for years about finding a project to work on together. Suddenly, the pieces fell into place and the postmodern Perhonen was included in Innolux’s 2023 anniversary collection to represent me. The collaboration has run extremely smoothly, because Innolux has the same pragmatic approach to production and technical matters as I do. I believe that this design item is finally in the right place at the right time.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Throughout my career, I have absorbed influences from the spirit of the times. My wife was also a huge source of inspiration for me, but also my harshest critic. We were a good team, even though it might seem like an odd proposition that a visual artist and a designer could inspire each other. Nowadays, I just try to simplify things.