Finnish masterpieces; practical and beautiful

If you have ever been to a sporting event of any kind, you have heard Darude’s Sandstorm from the loudspeakers. Darude, a Finnish DJ, released the song in 1999. It has since become one of the most iconic pump-up songs, largely thanks to University of South Carolina’s football team.

Sandstorm was certified platinum in January 2020, but it isn’t the only Finnish product or invention that has taken over the world. In fact, you can even see things like Finnish architecture in the United States.

The man who is the most responsible of this is Eero Saarinen, a Finnish architect who later became a U.S. citizen. Saarinen had a close connection to Michigan, because his family immigrated to the United States when he was 13 years old. Saarinen grew up in Bloomfield Hills, designed the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, and eventually passed away in Ann Arbor in 1961.

During his career, Saarinen designed the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, TWA Flight Center at JFK International Airport, and Washington Dulles International Airport in Washington D.C. He also worked for the Office of Strategic Services, which was a predecessor to the CIA, and helped on designing the Situation Room in the White House. And for the hockey fans out there, Yale’s Ingalls Rink, or “the Whale,” is another one of Saarinen’s masterpieces.

A building you might be familiar with Granot Loma in Marquette. Allegedly the biggest log cabin in the world, Granot Loma was built by approximately 400 Finns. Finnish log builders are still well respected in the industry, and so are other Finnish craftsmen as well. Many of the Finnish artists have been inspired by nature. The golden era of glassblowing in Finland took place in the 20th Century. Birds by Oiva Toikka and melting ice-like Ultima Thule kitchen glasses by Tapio Wirkkala are extremely popular in Finland. Iittala, on the other hand, is a well-known company in Finland. You can find their design objects, for example Mariskooli Bowl and Aalto Vase by Alvar Aalto, from almost every Finnish household.

However, Finns also master the futuristic and modern style of design. Eero Aarnio designed the Ball Chair in 1963, and it can be seen in James Bond movies, music videos, and magazines. Aarnio’s Bubble Chair follows the same principles, but it is attached to the ceiling with a chain and is made of transparent material.

Harri Koskinen’s Block Lamp is my personal favorite out of Finnish design objects. It can be found from New York Museum of Modern Art, and most importantly my own shelf.

When it comes to technology, Nokia and its phones put Finland on the map in the 1990s and early 2000s. Nokia is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and in 2009 it was the 85th largest company in the world. It even accounted for 4% of Finland’s gross domestic product in 2000.

It is probably a safe bet that 90% of the readers of this article have owned a Nokia. The reason why is that Nokia 1100 happens to be the most sold phone in the world with 255 million worldwide sales. Only iPhone 6 has been able to take a place on the list of top 10 best-selling phones of all time, with all the other phones being Nokias. However, three Nokia phones on the list are tied with Samsung and Motorola.

In addition to all these impressive numbers, the world’s first satellite call and GSM call were both done on a Nokia phone. That’s not all, Nokia employee Matti Makkonen was the person who invented something that we do daily, texting. So, Nokia has been a true trailblazer in this industry.

While we’re talking about technology, it is worth mentioning that Finns have made other significant inventions in the technology field as well. If you’re into sports, you have probably used a heart rate monitor at least once. It was invented by Seppo Säynäjäkangas in 1977 for the Finnish National Cross Country ski team. The company that Säynäjäkangas founded is Polar Electro. Even though he passed away in 2018, Polar is still thriving all over the world.

Some everyday items that come from Finland might be more familiar to you. A dish drying cabinet is a simple but effective way to make life easier. Invented in the 1940s by Maiju Gebhard and named one of the most important Finnish inventions of the 20th Century, the purpose of a dish drying closet was to save women’s time and effort. Fiskars scissors are also a popular Finnish product.

Fiskars was ahead of its time with affordable and light plastic handles. They are easily recognizable due to their orange color, but other than that, well, they’re just scissors. Another lifesaving, and I mean literally lifesaving, Finnish invention is a safety reflector. Arvi Lehti, who was a Finnish farmer, wanted to protect his horse carts in the 1960s. Even though reflectors had already been used for other purposes, it was Lehti’s idea that eventually led to pedestrians using the safety reflectors. Whether you’re riding a bike, jogging, or walking, a safety reflector can save your life. A pedestrian with a safety reflector can be seen from three times the distance than the one who is not wearing a reflector.

As you can see, Finns can actually be useful every once in a while. I guess we just have a lot of time to think during the miserable winters. That is probably when they invented the first skates nearly 5,000 years ago in Finland. Yes, they were made of bone, but hey, at least they got the job done.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Roni Salmenkangas is a student athlete at Ferris State University, majoring in sports communication. For the most part, Roni’s stories focus on Finnish culture and people. He is completing his internship from Tampere, Finland.


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