Paavo Tynell – the man who lit up Finland

Paavo (Paavali Viljo) Tynell (1890–1973) was from an old family of glassblowers. He was a tinsmith, a craftsman, a skilled blacksmith. However, Tynell wanted to study and learn more and ended up as an extra student of metal art at Ylemäppä Taideteollisuuskoulu. In the middle of the first annual course in 1916, the principal announced that the 26-year-old Tynell had to become a metalwork teacher.

Paavo Tynell became one of the most important names in the history of Finnish lighting design. He belonged to the pioneer generation of designers who, in the cross wave of different styles and technical innovations, served the needs of a young nation both in countless public buildings and in private homes. For example, in the 1930s it was almost a matter of course to order lighting for public places from Paavo Tynell and his Taito Oy. Tynell's most important partners were e.g. Alvar Aalto and architect Erkki Huttunen designed Hotelli Vaakuna.

Tynell was a functionalist who emphasized the importance of high-level design. When an apartment exhibition was organized in Finland in 1939, Tynell wrote in the exhibition catalogue: "However, it must be remembered that light is the main thing, and that the function of lamps is only to 'provide' light in a way that is as pleasant and suitable for the purpose as possible."

Between the design phase of the coat of arms (1940) and its completion (1952), there was a war. However, the division of labor between architect Huttunen and lighting designer Tynell remained clear. Huttunen designed hotel and restaurant furniture, down to the smallest detail, in the "Elielsaari" tradition. As for the lighting, he gave Tynell complete design freedom. All of Vaakuna's lamps from 1952 were manufactured at Paavo Tynell's Taito Oy company just for the hotel that was being completed.

Even today, Tynell's original lamps can be found in the Original Sokos Hotel Vaakuna. You will meet the first ones on the wall of the reception hall as soon as you enter. You can also admire the lights in the restaurant lobby on the tenth floor and in the Loiste restaurant. The lamps that are still used by the Original Sokos Hotel Vaakuna represent Tynell's 1940s ornament-oriented, decorative line. After the hand of the functionalist, more romantic nature motifs and decorative, feminine features had begun to appear stealthily. Many contemporaries speculated that this was partly the result of the marriage concluded in 1947 with Helena Tynell (née Turpeinen). When Paavo Tynell started incorporating tiny holes and lace-like hole patterns into the brass lampshades, Alvar Aalto named the lamps grandmother's lace pants. The name has survived.

Brass was a natural material for Paavo Tynell. This was partly the result of times of war and famine; had to be solved with domestic materials, and brass was obtained from Outokumpu. Tynell's brass era was long, it even lasted until 1958. The use of brass can also be seen in Vaakuna's lamps. Tynell's brass lamps became a success both in Finland and in America. The designer's career culminated in the United States, where he was often presented as the man who illuminated Finland.

Quite a lot of Paavo Tynell's work has survived. The preservation and lucky rescues may have been influenced by the originality and durability of the lamps. However, the researchers' work is affected by the renovation and destruction of interiors, and there is no precise information about Tynell's works in private homes in particular.

Over the years, Paavo Tynell used the professional title fine blacksmith. He was sometimes joked that you can't be a blacksmith if you don't know how to make horseshoes. "No, but I can make a car fender," Tynell used to reply.