In the University of Helsinki Main Building, students hurry to class through a lobby dominated by imposing columns and elegant U-shaped chairs. Made of black saddle leather and wrought iron, these neoclassical chairs are modelled on the curule seat used by the ancient Romans to denote political or military power. The chairs can be found in the Main Building extension at Fabianinkatu 33, colloquially called the ‘new side’, which was designed by architect J. S. Sirén and completed in 1937.
The object of the month in November is a Finnish design classic: a chair which is a familiar object to many Finns from a variety of spaces. The story of the Domus chair began during the housing shortage that followed the Second World War, although it is possible that the idea for the chair occurred to its designer, Ilmari Tapiovaara, as early as the 1930s. In any case, the bent plywood chair, originally designed for a student housing complex in Helsinki, gradually became a mass-produced international bestseller. The Helsinki University Museum has received items of Domus furniture designed by Tapiovaara as donations from the University of Helsinki’s Student Union.