"Let me show you the latest chair I've designed using UPM Grada," says Yuka Takahashi, unveiling the Paris-II chair. "The first version U&A chair was exhibited at the EcoDesign exhibition at the Habitare fair last year, and I'm excited to have created a new chair design for 2023."
The Japanese-Finnish designer points out the chair's minimalist yet elegant form. "With UPM Grada, I wanted to take a 'less is more' approach, focusing on graceful lines and functional stackability,” she says, demonstrating how the lightweight but durable chair can be picked up and nested together with others. "Strength and portability were key priorities in the design. UPM Grada gave me the freedom to design an airy, delicate frame without sacrificing sturdiness."
Eye-opener for independent thinking
Yuka Takahashi came to Finland to study industrial design as a master's student at the University of Art and Design (predecessor of Aalto University) from Kobe, Japan in 2002. She had worked for a few years as a designer in a tool manufacturing company in Japan after finishing her undergraduate studies. Feeling a desire to experience new cultures and with a fondness for Europe, she decided to pursue graduate studies abroad. Her professor in Japan recommended looking at the Nordic countries.
When beginning her studies in Finland, Takahashi did not have extensive knowledge of Finnish design. “I knew some big names like Alvar Aalto, Arabia, and Iittala,” she recounts, adding she was more aware of Finland's reputation for high-quality design education.
Studying at a Finnish university was an eye-opening, horizon-broadening experience for her. The Finnish teaching style emphasised independent thinking and students taking responsibility for their own development as designers. This contrasted with the more rigid Japanese university system.
After completing her Master's in 2006, Takahashi continued collaborating with architect/designer Pekka Harni, whom she had met just after arriving in Finland. Together they founded Harni-Takahashi Design & Architecture which focuses on industrial and architectural design projects with sustainable and unique solutions.
“Our style tends not to chase fleeting trends, but aims for more timeless, enduring designs,” Takahashi describes.