For Ilmari Mäenpää, composing means to shape sound, offering a view to design and architecture. Since it is too cold in Finland to stare at the stars or clouds for hours and hours, he has designed Olokolo, a special space for just being alive and doing nothing. With this unique product he wants to offer a view and a condition that make design invisible.
Mimmi: Hi, how are you?
Ilmari: When I was young, I thought that a middle-aged person should have everything they ever need. So that I could just hang around all day and compose whatever I feel like. So that I would be free of financial worries and commitments. It all turned out differently: days are a bit too long, and its seems that we are becoming more and more busy and challenged by our environments. Money comes, money goes. As an optimist and an idealist, every year I think that this year my dream of serene life will come true. Let’s see.
Mimmi: Do tell something about yourself.
Ilmari: I’d like to be a composer. These days when I meet new people, I only mention the field in which I am currently involved. I have noticed that for most people, my diversified job descriptions are too hard to handle.
Mimmi: You are a composer with a lot more to say. For what do you want people to remember you?
Ilmari: Absolutely for my compositions and art. Without art, family, and friends life would be nearly meaningless. In my middle age, I think that it does not really matter if anyone remembers me. The main thing is to be able to live the most meaningful life right here and now. I also believe that composing is the basis of everything I do now. Leonardo da Vinci was my greatest idol when I was a child, and perhaps this vision has carried me on.
Mimmi: You have designed Olokolo for doing nothing. What is Olokolo?
Ilmari: Olokolo is a space for being. The first Olokolo building I built for myself to function as a place for meditation. In Finland, it is way too cold to stare at the stars or clouds or the northern lights for hours and hours in the middle of the winter. Moreover, even in the summer, an adult doing nothing on the lawn is considered awkward. We are forgetting how important the sky is. It is our window to infinity just like the horizon of the sea is infinite, too.
Mimmi: Where did it all begin? What were the biggest challenges in designing Olokolo?
Ilmari: The biggest challenge was to make manufacturers understand what it means to finalise a product in detail. Thinking about the diverse journey of Olokolo into a ready-to-use product, I don’t think I would go through that again. I’d design the product for myself only.
Mimmi: How does it look inside your Olokolo?
Ilmari: Olokolo opens a view to the nature. I want to fade out the building and make it invisible. Its organic idiom was inspired by shells, moles, and other basic forms of nature. Its idiom integrates with the nature just like polypore integrate with tree trunks. I want to offer a view and a condition for being and thus make design invisible.
Mimmi: If I wanted to buy Olokolo for myself, what kind would you recommend and why?
Ilmari: I want to offer you an Olokolo that you love. Objects have no meaning if they have been created for any other reason except for the individual’s need and love.
Mimmi: The Olokolos that you have designed has been used in most remarkable natural locations. Which one will stay in your mind in particular? And why?
Ilmari: As a composer, I cannot forget the Lady Bug version ordered by Leif Segerstam. The same goes for the Olokolos that take place in trees, as well as the one built from parts on a deserted island.
Mimmi: You also want to challenge the limits of traditional housing by shaking the default formula of ownership and help to relieve housing shortage. You have invented a mini log house which a builder in Sweden, for example, can buy for their lot without an official building permission. Where did it all begin?
Ilmari: In my opinion, it is completely mad for the society to prevent individuals from making their dreams come true if these dreams do not pollute the environment or disturb the neighbours, and if they are built using one’s own heavily taxed income. I am so tired of this subject. I have seen too much despotism by the authorities. Innovation and individual wellbeing are so not created through bureaucracy.
Mimmi: You live in Kiiminki to the north from Oulu. How have the northern dimension and the wilderness of Kiiminki influenced you as a composer and inventor?
Ilmari: The nature is close here, and it is normal to be the village idiot. I am not at all interested in trends, and I only follow the news. I hate copycats and idolising someone else’s career or projects. I think each person’s life is unique and valuable within its own scale of satisfaction. From here we can get to Helsinki or any metropolis just as we would from Vantaa.
Mimmi: In addition to composing and innovation you have a day job. How do manage everything?
Ilmari: I try to cut my work into manageable timetables. I hold on to my schedule and move on to the next job. Mostly, however, I’m doing several projects at the same time and I just have to make the days longer. Interrupting composing would be like interrupting love-making. In a chaotic work situation it is better not to compose at all.
Mimmi: How does being a composer show in your design work?
Ilmari: Composing is creating new from scratch. That is why I am not really intimidated by any task. Sometimes it feels that my belief in my own abilities is too strong. So far, in all of my projects, I have landed on my feet like a cat.
Mimmi: Where can we see your touch in the future?
Ilmari: For autumn 2016, I am working on and composing parts of an audiovisual orchestral work for the Finlandia Hall. The mini log house is in production as we speak. I have drafted quite wild and reckless versions for my clients.
Mimmi: What is the next step?
Ilmari: Towards the dream relentlessly, even if it feels that the dream is fleeing.
is a freelance journalist, who writes, photographs and styles for living. Her motto is to live a little upside down. And to bravely face what life has to offer.
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