Dezeen Magazine

Heinola Reading Lamps by Vesa Honkonen

Stockholm Design Week: Finnish architect Vesa Honkonen presented this public lighting project when he spoke at the Light Now conference in Stockholm last Monday.

The project, which was completed in late 2005, involved installing a series of "reading lamps" in Library Square in the town of Heinola in Finland.

The half-day Light Now conference, held at Oscars theatre and the Nordic Light Hotel in Stockholm city centre, was the first in a series of "nomad" design conferences organised by Future Design Days.

Other speakers at the conference, which was moderated by Dezeen editor-in-chief Marcus Fairs, were James Irvine, Magnus Wästberg, Professor Jan Ejhed, Alexander Lervik and Marnick Smessaert.

Here's some text about Honkonen's project in Heinola:



Lighting design and new fixtures for the Heinola City Library plaza.

Design: Vesa Honkonen
Team: Mari Koskinen, Tiina Olli
Client: City of Heinola
Construction starts 2005

Heinola is located about 140 kilometers north of Helsinki with some 20 000 inhabitants. The small plaza outside of the library was under renovation. I was asked to create lighting that would give this place a special value, character.

The street and the plaza are quite anonymous, however the place has a good scale. Lighting is often too even and boring. Usually my principle is to hide the lighting fixtures and let the space take the main role. This time I felt that the place needed more. Fixtures started to have a life of their own. Since it is a library plaza, they started to get a shape of a reading lamp, casting the light down, lamps sheltered with large cover in order to avoid glare. Then these fixtures started to wonder where they are. They started to look around, both sides, behind themselves, further away. Suddenly this place was conquered by 15 individual creatures, looking around, casting the sharp beams of light to the direction of their sight.

This place will have a special character of light and design which does not interfere with the quiet architecture that creates the place itself. They are friendly visitors, like cattle visiting a field.

Heinola is located some 130 km north from Helsinki, the capitol of Finland. The town is surrounded by beautiful lake district. Late summer 2004 the authorities of Heinola contacted me and asked if they could use the lighting solution, which I had created for Raisio, an other small town in Finland. Raisio light net, completed 2002, had got really nice response from international press and raised the image and status of this small town.

However I did not feel like repeating myself. I also had made a promise to Raisio not to use same solution in Finland for next 7 years. They had been a great client and we worked in good co operation. They deserved to enjoy the privilege for light net. I replied to Heinola that they will not get the light net but out of respect for Heinola, we could create something just for them. Not a copy of Raisio but something unique. Our new client appreciated this attitude.

The place they were desiring for something unique was a small library plaza. Library presents typical 1970’s functionalistic architecture and it steps in from the street line creating a small plaza. The scale of this urban space is relatively small. Lighting around this street and plaza is typical relatively good quality lighting. I decided to take a new starting point. This small street and plaza should get some action, movement. I started to dream about the reading lamps, stepping out from the library, starting to dance on the street, creating a chaos, movement, action, growing bigger, taking care of the street. This area is ours, we’ll take over, they shout.

These weird reading lamps started to grow, they started to look around. They had landed to new territory, to urban space. They started to look over their shoulders, look around, bend down. They were slightly confused. But after a while they calmed down. Their movements got calmer. They started to freeze. Slowly they accepted their form and positions. The time for movement was over. They were satisfied and in peace.

These frozen movements took a shape of three individual forms. The lower part of the pole is similar in each variation. We created 3 different curved parts to bend the fixture to different directions. Then the lamp part is similar for each variations. This way we created 3 unique fixture types. The total amount of installation is fifteen.

It was clear form the beginning that the light source has to be metal halide lamp in order to create strong dots of light to the street level. We did not want to create even lighting. I wanted to create a nightmare of a good lighting designer, uneven lighting with strong contrasts. These fixtures should cast sharp beams of light to the street, express the form of light roaming out from its body. The chosen manufacturer made the first mock up and once again we learned more about the light and form. We had to push the lamp deep inside in the body of this fixture in order to avoid the glare. I wanted the light to burst out from the black hole, aiming it self to different directions.

This project will be completed in November 2005. I am waiting eagerly to see and feel the result. Actually, you never know before hand, how the form of light in urban space will work and feel like. You have to experience it at site, and once again learn something new, every time.

Vesa Honkonen
Lighting designer


Vesa Honkonen


Vesa Honkonen Architects,
Mari Koskinen
Tiina Olli

City of Heinola
Ritva-Maija Kuuskoski