Vello Asi/1927-2016

Eesti NSV Riiklik Kunstiinstituut, 1954

State Art Institute of the Estonian SSR, 1954

Vello Asi oli sisearhitekt ja õppejõud. Koos Väino Tammega oli ta üks aktiivsemaid modernistlike interjööride kavandajaid ja propageerijaid Eestis alates 1950. aastate lõpust. Funktsionaalsus, konstruktiivne selgus, esteetiline, ent lakooniline vorm on printsiibid, mis peegeldusid näiteks Tallinna Kirjanike Maja (1963), Kurtna linnukasvatuse katsejaama (1967), Tuljaku kohviku (1967), Viru hotelli (1972), aga ka Pirita olümpiapurjespordikeskuse (1975–80) sisearhitektuuris. Asi kavandas arvukalt ka näitusi ning oli almanahhi Kunst ja Kodu kujundaja. Tema õppejõutöö Eesti Kunstiakadeemias mõjutas mitut põlvkonda Eesti sisearhitekte ja disainereid.

Vello Asi was an interior architect and educator. Together with Väino Tamm, he was one of the most active designers and promoters of Modernist interiors in Estonia since the late 1950s. Functionality, constructive clarity, and aesthetic but laconic form were some of his common principles reflected, for instance, in his interior designs of the Estonian Writerís House in Tallinn (1963), the Kurtna Poultry Test Station (1967), Café Tuljak (1967), Viru Hotel (1972), as well as the Pirita Olympic Yachting Centre (1975–80). Asi also designed a large number of exhibitions in addition to the magazine Kunst ja Kodu (Art and Home). His decades of instruction at the Estonian Academy of Arts influenced several generations of Estonian interior architects and designers.

Interview. Vello Asi (excerpts)


[Richard] Wunderlich was a well-known man. He was a trendy man, tried to keep up with the times. Most of the talk of the town branded him as the ‘maker of upper class furniture’ and a ‘cunning fellow’. He never talked about his past. Typically for the time, many referred to him as ‘another Jew.’

Mari Adamson* was my best source on Wunderlich (I interrogated her quite a bit). At the famous Paris Expo [of 1937] where his little bar cabinet was out among other things, he was also one of the exhibition designers. He also spoke a little French. The authors and people who looked after the exhibits got together, and walked around in Paris. At that point, he was quite highly appreciated already, especially after he had received the commission for the Kardiorg presidential office furniture. Mari praised him a lot. And what surprised me – when RaKü (Estonian Applied Arts Association) was established, he was elected chairman. Like Mari said: “Some label him a Jew, others elect him chairman.” He served two terms, which means that he was also re-elected.

What was his true nationality? He never said. He said that he himself did not know. He had come from Karelia after WWI when Russia started giving consent to moving abroad. He had probably gone to primary school in Karelia, the family had then set course for Narva and stayed there for a while. He probably went to primary school there as well. Then the family finally ended up in Tallinn and he started going to school here, entered a school of industry.

Mari described him as a lively, productive and active man who succeeded at everything. Mari praised his wide knowledge, he was interested in many things, was erudite. He did not like the idea of repatriating to Germany [in 1939]. He was on one of the first ships to leave but returned and even managed to open up the spatial design school after that.

Maia Oselein [Laul] was among the students who started their studies under Wunderlich. His lessons impressed the students and consisted of intense work and nothing else. [Voldemar] Kaarma taught construction. I have heard and read two pieces of recollections on these lessons – by Oselein and [Maimu] Plees. According to them, total focus was expected. Maimu Plees describes an instance when, after a composition class had officially ended, Kaarma had started looking in, asking whether the group intended to finish at some point, but was told off (and took offense, as he considered his subject worthy of attention too).

To remind you how great an Estonian enthusiast Wunderlich was – he came back from Germany, he did not like it there at all. When the front started moving this way and he had to leave again, he departed to Sweden via Finland and remained there. In Germany, he had had a good position in a major postal services company. In Sweden, he also worked his way up very fast again: he became an architect for a major chain of department stores (Nordiska Kompaniet).

* Estonian textile artist (1908 – 2000)

Klubihoone kavand, IV kursus, 1952, juhendaja E. J. Kuusik, peafassaad

Draft clubhouse, 4th year, 1952, supervisor E. J. Kuusik, main façade

Klubihoone kavand, IV kursus, 1952, juhendaja E. J. Kuusik, jalutusruum

Draft clubhouse, 4th year, 1952, supervisor E. J. Kuusik, lobby

Tooli kavand, IV kursus, 1952, juhendaja E. J. Kuusik

Chair design, 4th year, 1952, supervisor E. J. Kuusik

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