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Celebrating Finnish Design With Iittala and Arabia

Two of Finland’s most acclaimed and venerated design establishments are Iittala and Arabia. With a long and vibrant history, they are as much a part of brand Finland as the Northern Lights, Santa Claus, saunas and the Moomins. The recently overhauled Iittala & Arabia Design Centre is a celebration of all things Iittala and Arabia.

Iittala and Arabia

In 1881, Iittala started life as a glass factory in the village of Iittala in southern Finland; with something of a head start, Arabia was established in 1873. The two brands are stalwart supporters of good design, honestly crafted, that lasts a lifetime. Pioneering and innovative, Iittala and Arabia have earned a reputation for excellence. Playing a positive role in Finland’s identity as a design nation, their discerning products enrich the everyday lives of many people across the world. Today, the two companies are a part of Fiskars: a one-time ironworks, founded in 1649 in a small Finnish village, Fiskars is now an influential consumer goods company whose brands include Iittala, Arabia and Royal Copenhagen.

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Glass-blowing at the Iittala factory.
Glass-blowing at the Iittala factory.
Production of Kastehelmi Votives at the Iittala factory.
Production of Kastehelmi Votives at the Iittala factory.
The historic Arabia factory.
The historic Arabia factory.
The Arabia factory building in 2012.
The Arabia factory building in 2012.

Iittala & Arabia Design Centre

Celebrating Iittala and Arabia, the Iittala & Arabia Design Centre is a recent addition to Helsinki’s spirited design scene. Housed in the Arabia Center in the Finnish capital’s Arabianranta district, the Design Centre tells the story of these two much loved Finnish brands.

Iittala Arabia Design Centre Lab 1
The Design Lab at the Iittala & Arabia Design Centre.
The Design Lab at the Iittala & Arabia Design Centre.
The Design Lab at the Iittala & Arabia Design Centre.
Iittala Arabia Design Centre Museum 1
The Design Museum Arabia at the Iittala & Arabia Design Centre.

A design haven, the Iittala & Arabia Design Centre offers an interactive experience to its visitors via a series of guided tours, lectures and year-round events. The Design Lab is open to all and celebrates the continual process of experimentation necessary for the development of innovative design. The Design Museum Arabia chronicles the story of Finnish ceramics and glass. Set in a completely redesigned and revamped space, the museum features iconic works from many esteemed designers, including Kaj Franck (1911-1989), Timo Sarpaneva (1926-2006) and Tapio Wirkkala (1915-1985). The newly renovated Iittala & Arabia Design Centre Store offers an extensive selection of Iittala and Arabia dining and interior products: doubtless a must-see for the avid design aficionado (and for the fulfilment of that kid in a candy store moment).

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Iittala Arabia Design Centre Store 1
Alvar Aalto’s Finlandia vase (front, right) at the Iittala & Arabia Design Centre Store.
Iittala Arabia Design Centre Store 2
Various glassware collections at the Iittala & Arabia Design Centre Store.
Iittala Arabia Design Centre Store 3
Birds by Toikka at the Iittala & Arabia Design Centre Store.
Iittala Arabia Design Centre Store 4
Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec’s Ruutu vases (rear) at the Iittala & Arabia Design Centre Store.
Iittala Arabia Design Centre Store 5
Nappula candleholders designed by Matti Klenell at the Iittala & Arabia Design Centre Store.

Design Museum Arabia

Completely overhauled, the new Design Museum Arabia (opened to the public on 19 November 2016) occupies the premises of the former Arabia Museum. Located on the ninth floor (top floor) of the historic Arabia factory building, the original museum opened as a factory museum in 1948 and years later (in 1984) as a public museum. Presenting a history of Finland’s ceramic and glass design, the Design Museum Arabia offers an educational experience to children and adults alike.

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Iittala Arabia Design Centre Museum 1
The Design Museum Arabia at the Iittala & Arabia Design Centre.

Featured designers

Kaj Franck is known as the "conscience of Finnish design." His Kartio glassware, Teema tableware and Scandia cutlery for Iittala are Finnish design icons.
Kaj Franck is known as the “conscience of Finnish design.” His Kartio glassware, Teema tableware and Scandia cutlery for Iittala are enduring Finnish design icons.
The Sarpaneva Cast iron pot, designed by Timo Sarpaneva in 1960, is a functional Finnish design classic.
The Sarpaneva Cast iron pot, designed by Timo Sarpaneva in 1960, is a functional Finnish design classic.
Tapio Wirkkala is regarded as a principal figure of modern Finnish industrial art. This portrait of the designer is incredibly vivid. Photo by Osmo Thiel.
Tapio Wirkkala is regarded as a principal figure of modern Finnish industrial art. This portrait of the designer is incredibly vivid. Photo by Osmo Thiel.
Tapio Wirkkala's distinctive Ultima Thule series was inspired by Lapland's melting ice.
Tapio Wirkkala’s distinctive Ultima Thule series was inspired by Lapland’s melting ice.

All images © Fiskars Finland.

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