The golden age of Finnish design at the Triennales

Ever so often there’s a design and architecture exhibition held in Milan, Italy called the Triennale and from 1933 to 1964 Finland triumphantly cleaned out the awards table. Suddenly the world saw Finland in a different light and it gave the country a much needed confidence boost.

Many of the awarded items and exhibits have since faded into obscurity but I’ve sought them out in obscure books. As there is little information to be found about which items actually, I’ve had to piece it together and in some cases I’m unsure of the winning items.

Triennale V – 1933

Grand Prix:
Elsa Elenius: ceramic objects
Maija Kansanen-Størseth: tapestry
Harry Röneholm: Exhibition display

Honorary mention:
Eva Brummer: collection of rugs

* Alvar Aalto: Furniture
* Eva Anttila: Tapestry
* Toini Muona: Ceramic objects

* Friedl Holzer-Kjellberg: Ceramic objects
* Werner West: Furniture

* Dora Jung: textiles
* Kurt Ekholm: ceramic objects
* Gunnel Gustafsson (Nyman): glass objects
* Jussi Mäntynen: miniature sculptures

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Triennale VI – 1936
Grand Prix:

* Aino Aalto: exhibit display

Gold Medal:
* Aino Aalto: Bölgeblick series








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Triennale IX – 1951

Grand Prix:

* Tapio Wirkkala: glass works (Chantarel), veneer items and exhibit display.
* Rut Bryk: Ceramic wall plates
* Dora Jung: Fabric works

Gold Medal:
* Toini Muona: Ceramic items
* Ilmari Tapiovaara: Furniture
* Kaj Franck: Ceramic items

Silver Medal:
* Lisa Johansson-Pape: Lamp fixture

Honorary Mention:
* Birger Kaipiainen: Ceramic art


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Triennale X – 1954
Grand Prix:

* Timo Sarpaneva: Glass objects Orchid and Kayak
* Tapio Wirkkala: “Kuutonen” bowl
* Dora Jung: Tapestry

Gold Medal:
* Lisa Johansson-Pape: Lamp fixture
* Göran Hongell: Aarne series
* Antti Nurmesniemi:
* Ilmari Tapiovaara:
* Yki Nummi: Light pendants
* Bertel Gardberg

Silver Medal:
* Michael Schilkin: Bird sculpture
* Saara Hopea: Stackable glass series

Honorary Mention:
* Rut Bryk: Birds ceramic plate
* Kaj Franck:
* Toini Muona:

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Triennale XI – 1957
Grand Prix:

* Timo Sarpaneva, 2 wins
* Kaj Franck: Colorful enamel bowls
* Dora Jung: Viivaleikki table cloth

Gold Medal:
* Antti Nurmesniemi:
* Yki Nummi:
* Ilmari Tapiovaara:
* Vuokko Eskolin: Glass series
* Bertel Gardberg: Triennale cutlery

Silver Medal:
* Saara Hopea: Flamingo liqueur glass series


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Triennale XII – 1960

Grand Prix:
* Antti Nurmesniemi: Triennale chairs
* Birger Kaipiainen: Curlew bird made out of beads

Gold Medal:
* Ilmari Tapiovaara:

Silver Medal:
* Bertel Gardberg:




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Triennale XIII – 1964

Grand Prix: 

* Antti Nurmesniemi and Vuokko Eskolin: Exhibition display

Gold Medal:
* Ilmari Tapiovaara: Polar cutlery







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Biennale / Triennale XIV – 1968
Gold Medal:
* Helmiriitta Honkanen ja Armas Nyberg: Posters

The 1968 Triennale had a strong Finnish presence the committee consisted of H.O. Gummerus, Jonas Cedercreutz, Timo Sarpaneva, Antti Nurmesniemi and Tapio Wirkkala with Yrjö Kukkapuro as the exhibition architect.

But immediately after the opening ceremony students, mostly architecture students, invaded the Triennale destroying exhibits in the process. The Triennale was postponed and it was only opened a month later. The Milano Triennales would never be the same again.


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5 thoughts on “The golden age of Finnish design at the Triennales

  1. Hello, My late husband, David Rowland, won the Gran Prix, or Gran Premio, at the 1965 Milan Triennale, for his 40/4 stacking chair. See his website listed below and also David Rowland, Industrial Designer on Wikipedia. Buckminster Fuller, a friend of my husband, won the Gran Premio in 1957 for his Geodesic Dome. Both men were Americans.Thanks for your website. Erwin Rowland


    1. Hi Erwin, I’m very familiar with your husband’s work and thank you for sharing and making me and the readers aware of the website. I’m reading through it right now and it’s very informative – especially the timeline! Best regards, Jonas Forth


    1. Hi Marcus, which link are you referring to? Unfortunately I broke the image links when I transferred my site but I’ll work on getting the up soon again.


  2. I did reply via email:

    “Erwin wrote

    ” See his website listed below”

    but it is not listed”

    BUT then I got this email in return:


    We ran into a problem with your recent comment reply by email. Specifically, we weren’t able to find your comment in the email.

    We’ll do our best to get this fixed up. In the meantime, you may want to comment directly on the post:


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