Glass artist Renata Jakowleff wins prestigious Ornamo Award

Glass artist and Muotobetoni precast concrete creator Renata Jakowleff has been announced as the winner of the 2018 Ornamo Award. According to journalist Sami Sykkö, who selected this year’s winner, society needs visionaries like Jakowleff who have the ability to bring change and fresh thinking to traditional industries. The Ornamo Award is worth EUR 5,000.

Born in Hungary but based in Finland, Jakowleff’s (b. 1974) artistic career is distinguished by her long-standing experimental work with glass and, latterly, with concrete. In 2010, she gained a Master of Arts degree from the University of Art and Design Helsinki (now Aalto University’s School of Arts, Design and Architecture).

Since her graduation, Jakowleff has continued to maintain an active practice and profile through her participation in international exhibitions, fairs and competitions. She has also held a series of solo exhibitions, and her works have been acquired by the Finnish State Art Deposit Collection, the Finnish Glass Museum and international private collectors.

In the past few years, her boundary-breaking and forward-looking approach has led to the innovative Muotobetoni concrete pre-casting technique, which allows this ubiquitous material to be printed with decorative 3D patterns. The benefits offered by this new technique are already on display at the Kangas residential neighbourhood in Jyväskylä, Finland that features a retaining wall created using Jakowleff’s method.

Unique innovation offers new future for construction industry

In his award presentation speech on 26 April, journalist Sami Sykkö who chose the winner from among the shortlisted candidates noted that, in a country like Finland that continues to be affected by structurally unsound concrete buildings, there is a real need for the Jakowleff’s clarity of vision.

“When art and the artist, architecture and construction come together in such a thoroughly original way, it is definitely worthy of an Ornamo Award,” Sykkö said, commenting on his decision.

Sykkö says Jakowleff’s Muotobetoni technique offers limitless opportunities because of its scalability. It can be used to build entire houses, create attractive frontages and also bring art indoors through structural features and furniture.

“What’s more, one of the notable achievements of Muotobetoni is that it succeeds in highlighting the importance of education and the benefits we all derive from it. It is safe to say that without her expertise in ceramic materials, Renata Jakowleff may never have

realised the full extent of the versatility that concrete has to offer. Her innovation serves as a useful reminder of how important it is for all of us to be involved in bringing about the sort of conditions under which designers, and design in all its guises, can flourish,” Sykkö pointed out in his award presentation speech.

For the love of concrete

Renata Jakowleff first hit upon the idea of Muotobetoni pre-cast concrete at a 2015 seminar organised by Ornamo. The artist immediately saw the possibilities offered by concrete as a material and set about creating a brand new visual language for it in collaboration with Finnish concrete suppliers Parma Oy and Betoniviidakko.

With Muotobetoni it is possible to add 3D patterns and textures onto concrete structural elements of almost any size. The method is based on an insight into the way the material behaves during casting and before setting. Thanks to the high degree of flexibility it offers, this cost-effective solution can be used to create a range of finishes, even in the context of high volume commercial production. The artist’s breakthrough came when she realised fabric could be used to line the moulds used.

“The Muotobetoni pre-cast concrete product is made using a technique I initially developed for glass which I adapted specifically for this purpose. I needed something to imitate the surface tension of glass. Fabric allowed me to solve a whole host of other challenges as well and allowed me to create a range of textures,” Renata Jakowleff explains.

According to Renata Jakowleff, her collaboration with Finnish concrete experts turned out to be such a resounding success because everyone involved shares a passion for concrete.

“The strengths I brought to the project were a sort of creative madness and also my refusal to settle for second best. I’m really pleased at how businesses in the concrete industry have embraced this. Although our disciplines are very different, we all share a passion for concrete and the endless potential it offers,” the artist adds.

Fresh thinking through artistic freedom

Jakowleff says it is important that we listen more carefully to the critique and ideas put forward by artists when it comes to the built environment, and society in general.

“For me, artists are always in some ways the outsiders in society. What that means is that they have a freedom that generates whole new ways of thinking. We all have a role to play in safeguarding that,” Jakowleff argues.

The artist is currently busy turning her innovative concept into a commercial product, and her newly established company has its sights on the construction industry. It is a market that offers huge potential as concrete, as durable as it is affordable, remains the world’s most widely-used man-made building material. Muotobetoni offers a way to create attractive outdoor and indoor spaces.

The Muotobetoni technique offers virtually endless opportunities. In addition to large-scale surfaces, it can be used to create tiles and slabs, furniture, interior features and decorative and practical items.

What is the Ornamo Award?

The Ornamo Award is a prestigious design industry accolade that celebrates cutting edge applied art and design. Each year, nominees are put forward by Ornamo members, with a three-strong shortlist chosen by the Ornamo board. Each year, the winner is chosen by an external expert appointed by the board. The Ornamo Award has been presented annually since its re-launch in 2015.

Renata Jakowleff was joined on this year’s shortlist by interior architect Martti Lukander and Muka va fashion duo Anna Mattelmäki and Emilia Kiialainen.

Further information on the Ornamo Award and the shortlisted candidates is available here (in Finnish only). Read more about Renata Jakowleff here.

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Further information about the Design Day programme here (Finnish only). 26 April also marks World Intellectual Property Day. Find out more:

Ornamo is a professional body for the design industry founded in 1911. The organisation’s membership currently comprises around 2,600 members. Ornamo is actively engaged in promoting the profession and its interests.