NAKUNA exhibition picked into top 40 at Milan Design Week

Students from the Department of Design served exhibition guests over 1000 frozen Finnish berries
Laavu installation, photo: Valentina Casalini

NAKUNA (Fin. Naked) brought the experimental design of Aalto University students to Milan Design Week, taking over the historical Milan linguistic society building, Circolo Filologico Milanese, transforming it into an exhibition space for 4–9 April 2017. The three largest, interactive installations of the exhibition, Laavu (Fin. Lean-to), Ikkuna (Fin. Window) and Manifesti took the audience on a sensory journey to the core of Finnishness and Finnish values, celebrating Finland’s 100th year of independence.

Laavu had got its inspiration from the everyman's rights in Finland, offering a piece of nature in the form of rooty snacks. Students Suhyun Park and Annukka Svanda had collected berries and mushrooms as donations from Finn’s freezers and served them as beautiful portions for the guests. ‘We brought over a thousand berries and over a thousand mushrooms as well as 750 iced “lollies” made of frozen spring water to Milan’, says Park. At the same time they shared stories and awareness of Finns’ organic relationship with the forest. ‘There is still some kind of hunter-gatherer culture surviving in Finland’, states Svanda.

Drawing from Finnish sauna culture, Ikkuna reflected the Finns’ ability to be authentic and open, inviting the exhibition guests to reflect on themselves and their relationship to others. ‘We chose sauna as our theme, because that’s where people become equal as they take off their status symbols’, says student Samuli Helavuo. The multi-channel video installation portraying naked sauna goers in the nature brought up cultural differences. ‘Some of the guests focused on commenting the subjects’ bodies. It reveals how some cultures view nudity through the search for perfection’, muses student Monica Romagnoli.

As for the Manifesti installation, it was created as a tribute to the freedom of speech in Finnish culture, offering guests the opportunity to become a part of the exhibition in the form of words and sentences. Two old typewriters had been harnessed as the exhibit’s guestbook by attaching a constantly moving roll of paper to them. ‘We’re not telling the guests what to think; they get to define themselves what the message of Manifesti is’, states student Dario Vidal.

Ikkuna installation, photo: Valentina Casalini

First flagship project in artistic practice at the Department of Design

At the Department of Design, the project was directed by Professor of Design Timo Salli, Professor of Furniture Design Ville Kokkonen and University teacher of Contemporary Design Anna-Mari van der Lei. In addition, Professor Turkka Keinonen was involved in getting the project started. ‘Milan Design Week is the most important annual event of the design world. So we decided to challenge the royalty of design expertise. Our goal was to create an event with a clear identity and to arouse interest in the field of experimental design, led by strong artistic vision’, explains Timo Salli.

NAKUNA was selected in the top 40 exhibitions in the Milano Design Award competition that highlights the best exhibition design during the Design Week. The prize is the sought-after highlight of the Design Week. Salli commented: ‘We were chosen from over two thousand events. In this category, you are up against giants like Lexus, Cos, Ikea etc.’ Also, NAKUNA was the only Finnish exhibition to be included in the competition.

The exhibition received attention from Italian press and gained positive feedback from visitors. ‘The feedback especially highlighted the cohesive story-telling nature of the exhibition, which is often missing from school exhibitions in the design week. Word of mouth had spread during the week in Milan, and many came to see the show after hearing that it was something you needed to experience first-hand’, says Ville Kokkonen.

Assembling the exhibition demanded patience and multidisciplinary expertise of the group of eleven students. Participants included students from the Departments of Design, Media and Industrial Engineering and Management. ‘The project was the first production of this size for all of the students, and for some, it was their first international appearance.’ Ville Kokkonen sums up.

‘We wanted to expand peoples’ views on what contemporary design can be and what kind of tools Aalto University has given us as designers. We knew that taking this kind of experimental design exhibition to Milan Design Week, which is mainly a product design event, would carry its risks, but we wanted to stay real and faithful to our vision. Courage and a strong faith in our own and the team's work paid off’, comments student Amanda Colliander from the exhibition’s branding group.

In addition to the installations, NAKUNA presented an array of projects from the Department of Design: textile art by Hanna-Kaisa Korolainen and Aamu Salo, experimental products from the Wood Studio, audio system concepts produced in cooperation with Bang & Olufsen, and the CHEMARTS project on the use of cellulose in new biomaterials. In addition, three discussion sessions were arranged during the exhibition with the Finnish design event Habitare. The sessions included international top designers such as Sam Hecht from Industrial Facility and Inga Sempe, and the CEO of the MUJI brand, Masaaki Kanai.

Students: Mervi Antila, Amanda Colliander, Samuli Helavuo, Heli Juuti, Nathalia Mussi, Suhyun Park, Dario Vidal Pellikka, Monica Romagnoli, Aino-Nina Saarikoski, Annukka Svanda, Andre Vicentini.

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