Artek’s Product Development Strategy

-SUSTAINABILITY AS AN ATTITUDE

Sustainability and longevity have always been Artek’s essential ideals both in terms of design and technical quality. Sustainable development arises from adherence to a sound ethical approach in all activities, and it is conducive to good aesthetics in design. Durability, functionality and longevity are the key attributes in the modern world, where the concern for climate and natural resources are close to our everyday life.

Artek is uncompromised in its commitment to researching experimental and environmentally friendly resources. Natural materials and the humane approach are as relevant today as they were in the era of modernism. Artek combines emotional (ART) and rational (TECHNOLOGY) thinking in time, where it is pertinent to understand the synthesis of science and art, and embrace the social and environmental awareness.

The cornerstones of Artek's product development strategy are ethics, aesthetics and ecology. In Artek, this means a combination of high quality, timeless design and a strong inner ideology of the design.

Artek continues the work that has been going on for over seventy years by producing solid and timeless furniture that can outlast its original owner and by being very precise about the materials' provenance.

The Search for New Materials

Artek is continuously on the search for new, interesting and sustainable materials. Prime example of this was Artek’s experiment with wood-plastic composite material. A collaboration between the company UPM and Artek, resulted in the new use of the wood-plastic composite material. At the end of 2005, Artek started a research project aiming to discover new manufacturing and processing technologies with a focus on composite natural materials. This was carried out in Finland by researching new start-up material developments, university collaborations with industry and pending patent leads in material innovations. Research and development support grant was given to Artek in 2005 by the Finnish National Technology Fund (TEKES).

Through this research Artek found an interesting and promising composite material based on recycled paper. The producer was UPM, one of the largest paper manufacturers in Europe. UPM had just invested in a plastic extrusion production facility in Lahti and was running the first trial runs using their sticker laminate leftovers. The principle raw material for the composite is self-adhesive label materials made of paper and plastic, which is surplus from UPM Raflatac’s production. Artek’s initial interest was in the potential use of this material for furniture and product design.

The material was later on used in a much acclaimed project, namely the Artek Pavilion “The Space of Silence” that was presented at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan during spring 2007.  The internationally recognised architect Shigeru Ban has been a trailblazer in applying ecological thinking and the principles of sustainable development to architectural design. He was asked to design the Artek pavilion for Milan 2007. Shigeru Ban planned the pavilion solely using L-shaped profiles of the wood-plastic composite and combining the L-profiles in different ways as a roof, wall and as a structural element. The architecture of the pavilion was designed around a structural-unit concept that is repeated multiple times in forming an elongated shed-like building. The pavilion was also designed to be re-assembled.

The Artek Pavilion received an extraordinary reception from the audience and press worldwide. The pavilion met thousands of visitors every day and the international press and television companies reported extensively about it. After Milan, the pavilion was erected in Helsinki in August 2007 and reconstructed at Design Miami in December 2007, after which it was sold at the Sotheby’s sale of Important 20th Century Design in June 2008. 

The wood-plastic composite is still in active use, both by UPM and Artek. In the spring of 2009, a new exciting furniture system using the wood-plastic composite, the 10-UNIT SYSTEM designed by Shigeru Ban, was launched in Salone Internazionale del Mobile.