Vesa Honkonen’s Lecture at KTH



Last Thursday I was in attendance at a lecture given by Vesa Honkonen, an architect and lighting designer in Finland – Vesa came to KTH Haninge and gave a lecture on several topics, including art and the commercialization of design.  He was gracious enough to talk to us about several of his projects in recent past, and show us his process – including process sketches, notes, and images of projects in various stages of completion.

I have to admit that this lecture blew my mind open into little nondescript pieces.  We hadn’t started classes yet (we officially started lectures for the first course module last Monday), so it was an incredible start to our program.

The lecture was fantastic, I cannot say that enough – Vesa talked about many topics, but there were two that really rattled the inside of my cranium.  As lighting designers across the world in our respective industries we must consider what is mainstream and what is avant garde.  As ideas and designs that are new and different propagate in the industry and all around us, they’re considered avant garde.  This idea isn’t limited to any industry – it’s about art, design, and anything else subjective.  For example – my wife does amazing things with cascading style sheet programming, and I always consider her ideas and her understanding to be so far above the mainstream thinking that it amazes me every time she tells me about her projects.  At what point does her thinking about CSS become how everyone thinks?  At some point in every industry, in art, and in design, the mainstream thinking is replaced by what was once considered edgy, different, and not mainstream.

Thinking outside of the mainstream and going against the flow is how we progress.  This is not to say that everything mainstream is crap and that we have to find new solutions for everything in existence, but when you create, create.  Do what is best for the solution in your eyes, even if it is different than everything else you see.

This is a small bit of how the whole afternoon lecture with Vesa went – it was great.

He also told a story about Evert Lundquist, a painter and etcher from Sweden.  One day a poor engineer friend of Evert’s discovered him sitting in the dark, alone, in his studio.  The poor engineer friend had come by to visit Evert, and was curious as to why he was sitting alone.  The friend asked Evert, “why are you sitting alone in the dark?”

Evert replied, “I am simply waiting for the light.”

Thank you for your wonderful lecture, Vesa.  Please visit Vesa’s website, Vesa Honkonen Architects – His work is riveting.

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  1. Hi Jim.

    Coincidently I saw your writing. I guess you were fond of what Vesa said very much.

    On my opinion, all that he focued on was just attitude or position. Generally speaking he tried his

    best to accentuate the form. He chose anti-commercialization as his form or standpoint to show

    the difference he has than others and then the mainstream become the victim. But there have been

    not few people begin to be back to the mainsteam for staying different again, compared with the

    guys like Vesa. For example , many directors chose to shoot the mainstream ones instead of art f

    ilms, it is not only for money, but with some reflexion,to some extent.

    “At some point in every industry, in art, and in design, the mainstream thinking is replaced by what was once considered edgy, different, and not mainstream.”

    I think edgy and mainstream has never been sperated and will never benn sperated. It is a paradoxe

    bexause they are twins and exchange their role all the time from each other.

    So the lecture is useless for me and some of the others, Ha Ha…. 🙂



    • I feel like you missed the point, Haoming. I don’t feel like Vesa’s lecture had anything to do with being anti-mainstream, anti-commercial, or “edgy.” The way that we progress as a species is to come up with new, innovative ways to solve problems regardless of their socio-political impact on the mainstream. If everyone is afraid of having an idea that differs in style or form from the ideas that are widespread, there is no progress. This isn’t to say that it’s not “fashionable” to be “edgy,” because if you’ve ever seen any design that is considered as such, it would make perfect sense. But in our times of famine, illness, political control, human outrage, and problems of developing sustainable thinking among the people on our planet, thinking outside of the normal behavior is essential to progress.

      Thanks for reading!

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