The annual Kaj Franck Design Prize celebrates the central spirit and principles of designer Kaj Franck’s oeuvre: high-quality, democratic and functional design that solves practical challenges and creates new opportunities for companies using design competence.
“I’m very delighted of this recognition, especially because at the beginning of my career I worked so closely with Kaj. He became a kind of mentor to me and I have followed his methods to this day.”
“I’m very delighted of this recognition, especially because at the beginning of my career I worked so closely with Kaj. He became a kind of mentor to me and I have followed his methods to this day,” says Virtanen. Along with the shared projects in the 1970s, Kaj taught Kari about environmental issues and the reuse of materials, topics that were often overlooked at the time. It wasn’t all business, however. Kaj also appreciated good food and gladly came to Kari’s home to enjoy a proper, home-cooked meal.
Growing up in Southern Ostrobothnia, Virtanen founded his own one-man carpentry workshop, Nikari, in 1967. Throughout his long and varied career, Kari has welcomed all sorts of projects without the need to narrow down his repertoire. Having done everything from concrete molds to revival furniture, the versatility of Virtanen’s work has brought perspective to both his methods and attitude. It has also been particularly rewarding to work with different architects, moving from one design language to another. “As a young man, I worked with older, experienced architects, and now as an older carpenter, I pay my debts by pushing the young architects forward,” Virtanen says.
What would he like to say to young carpenters today? “Creativity begins when you step outside your home. Travel the world a bit: visit different workshops, learn to make doors and windows, study history, styles, materials and form your own understanding of it all,” Virtanen sums up.
Despite his many trades and titles, Virtanen is perhaps best described, above all, as a carpenter.
Kaj Franck Design Prize exhibition will be on display at Glasshouse Helsinki (Aleksanterinkatu 13) from the 5th to 28th of May, 2022.