Imaginary Life

collaboration communication the future by design

How drawing saved my life. By Ilkka.

As long as I can remember, I have been drawing. As soon as I could hold a pencil I started scribbling. Those scribbles turned into drawings of my friends, my family, their houses, their cars and other people I saw on the street. It was a way of navigating the world that existed around me. It was my way of labeling things. Drawing was part of my language process, like any child. It helped me categorize the world- and therefore understand it.

Drawing People

Drawing People

I drew a lot of family portraits. People gave me confirmation through those. I got more confidence because they loved my drawings and slowly I started to draw things that I wished to see. A world of my own imagining. A boat with wheels or a man with 8 legs. They were kind of dreams, an imaginary life.

Drawing was also a way to express my moods and feelings and like most kids I used crayons and “wax pastels”. There drawings that were a kind of abstract expressionism. So far it is the story any child might have with drawing. But it was at school that drawing started to have a particular significance to me. Although I was verbally articulate, I soon realised that I wasn’t like the other kids. My imaginary world was visual- not verbal.

I started to have a very hard time in school. I couldn’t keep up with the class work and worse than that, didn’t understand the point of the exercises. Why couldn’t I carry on imagining the world? Why wasn’t I allowed to draw all the time?

It turned out that I am heavily dyslexic. But in those days, the schools and teachers didn’t have the tools or knowledge to diagnose kids like myself. And because my problems were not recognized or diagnosed at school, my situation just became worse. Drawing was my only refuge- my only way of communicating with the outside world and getting some positive feedback from my teachers and peers.

Drawing became my very own language.

The other kids loved it and I was more popular because of it. It helped me compensate for my verbal and written expression – or lack of it. But one day, when I illustrated my thoughts with drawings in a Finnish language test my teacher yelled at me again and everyone laughed at me. On Monday my drawings were great, on Tuesday they got me into trouble. It was a very confusing time.

Drawing Things

Drawing Things

Somehow I managed to finish school. My drawings meant that I could go to higher education – it got me into university and it was probably the greatest way for me to learn during my university time. I used drawing to make mental notes. It was the most important single media to learn, document, plan and illustrate all the design and architecture I was learning about. Once again I was allowed to dream.

As a student I traveled to important locations, sites and buildings in Rome, Siena, and Venice to make drawings. Once I sat all day in Siena’s main square until late in the evening. Drawing allowed movement, but it also enabled stillness. It let me observe life I wouldn’t normally have seen. I drew all the buildings around the square. I realized that drawing a building or site is one of the best ways to learn architecture.

Drawing architecture

Drawing architecture

During the drawing process you learn every detail, you learn about proportions and shadows, and even the daily changes of the architecture in a profound way. It was through drawing that I realized that architecture is not static, but inherently connected to the time and space of its surroundings.

Only later I understood the importance of life drawing. Even if it was difficult and painful to draw the human body, it was a way for me to learn about layers of structure, from what is seen to what is unseen. From the skin right through to the bones. The breathing living movement that is part of every stillness. Light and shadow. What I learned from life drawing I have also taken with me into my furniture design- it has been translated quite clearly into an understanding of the body’s relationship to furniture- and architecture. Ergonomics, use and pose. The emotion of space.

Drawing furniture

Drawing furniture

I have always been fascinated by technical drawings. To me they are like abstract modern art. Technical drawing tells me more about something than a photo or realistic sketch. Technical drawings reveal secrets and mysteries: How things are made, how things work. In the end, technical drawings are the final documents we do in my office. They are my work, and my tools to talk with other people about design. They describe my projects more than words ever could.

And my drawings go on teaching me, more than I could imagine. It’s not as if I have an idea and then I draw it. Drawing is a reiterative process, where the drawing itself takes on a life of its own and tells me the questions that need to be answered. Anyone who draws understands this. You can’t ‘choose’ what you draw unless it is already justified. Already correct. The designs in my studio are always based on technical drawings- they are the last defining work done in the whole design process. Drawing from an early age enabled me to develop a process naturally that enables me to ask all the right questions at the right time, again and again until the solution is just right.

When I am drawing today, there are many reasons depending on the time: maybe I am studying a technical detail, maybe I am trying to understand “what if” – or maybe I am trying to find out why something is good. Maybe I am just thinking aloud. I always make several sketches to communicate and discuss ideas with my people in my studio.

When I am bored: I draw, it’s a friend who can be with me no matter where I am. I entertain myself by dreaming about possible products and spaces for a future that is better than one we know today.

I look back at the old masters: my heroes before me- Alvar Aalto and Eero Saarinen. I look at their drawings and am in conversation with them. In Alvar Aalto’s drawings you can see several scales sketched in a one single piece of paper simultaneously: From a detail of a door handle to the site-plan to the perspective of a house. In a way this represents his holistic view on design. Just one drawing holds all that knowledge.

I meet my heroes in books and discuss design and architecture with them through every line and gesture.

I am still fascinated about the vast variety of problems that Eero Saarinen could try and solve in a one single drawing: I saw a plan of a skyscraper and a evaluation matrix of candidates for his possible future wife in one drawing. For me this represents his opportunistic view on architecture- and how he also used drawing as a thinking process- to think about the future. To dream the future. The drawings are serious, poetic, light and artistic. They are about something that could be or something might not be for centuries.

So when you ask me to explain the importance of drawing, I should in fact, draw for you. Because drawing is not only a strong part of my work and who I am. It is more than that – it has enabled me to be myself, in a complex world ruled by words.

14.8 2013
Funchal, Finland
Ilkka Suppanen


Who we are

Imaginary Life is a brand development agency. We are a network of creative thinkers, doers and makers working with cultural and commercial projects that imagine the future.

Read more

A companion lamp

Here is a project by our colleague Sabrina Stiegler. In your hand you find a small treasure (it = Tesoro | ger = Schatz). It is not only a torch or an ambience light – It is a companion. Hope you like it- and will ‘like’ it on the site and Facebook too as it is a competition entry.

Dario RavettoDario-Ravetto_TESORO

The Photon Project at London Design Festival

If you happen to be in London on Monday 16th September, or Tuesday the 17th September, drop by and meet us at the Building Centre on Store Street, W1. The Photon symposium invites international scientists, academics, architects, designers and global corporations to join The Photon Project network to debate the link between daylight and science, technology, health, wellbeing, architecture and design.

Moderated by Peter Finch of the UK Design Council, the Symposium includes keynote speakers such as Sean Carney, Chief Design Officer at Royal Philips Electronics.

Store street installation.

Store street installation.

Philips have also designed a dynamic lighting programme in the Building centre itself and for a glass ‘Photon Pod’ installation out in the courtyard to showcase latest lighting products that front ongoing deeper research and innovation within lighting for increased Health and Wellbeing for built environments such as Hospitals and Schools, to name but a few.

The Photon Project will present a 4 year plan and concept for an advanced integrated scientific research project. The multifaceted proposal works with systems thinking and rapid innovation models to explore and bring to market future Health and Wellbeing applications- also creating new standards and solutions for Healthy Living.

The aim of the project is to ultimately improve the living and working conditions of millions of people across the globe by testing and measuring the biological advantages of increasing the amount of daylight in all types of buildings: residential, commercial, institutional, educational, cultural and leisure.

Current research, for example, has already proven that disruption to circadian rhythms causes a detrimental effect on health and wellbeing – over a short period this would typically lead to depression, nausea and high blood pressure, and over a longer period this can lead to chronic depression and secondary hypertension. There is also evidence that the lack of sleep caused by an inability to reset the body clock can have a critical impact on: schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes, some cancers and a long list of other life threatening conditions. As a research area, light has unlimited possibilities to help develop solutions that prevent disease and help the body in recovery.

The Photon Living Concept was initiated by Architect and Innovation Strategist Brent Richards in association with Cantifix Ltd. –a market-leading specialist glazing company. The research team is led by Professor Russell Foster, British Professor of Circadian Neuroscience at Oxford University. He and his team are credited with the discovery of non-rod, noncone, photosensitive ganglion cells in the mammalian retina – which provide input to the circadian rhythm system.

For more information please mail us on:

Address: The Building Centre, Store Street, London WC1E 7BT

16 Sept – PRESS LAUNCH (10.30 – 1.00) AT THE BOARDROOM
08.00 -1.00 PHOTON POD TOURS
16 Sept – DAY 1 SYMPOSIUM (1.30 – 6.00, 6.45 – 9.00) VINCENT
08.00 -1.00 Press visits to Photon Pod can be booked, with guide who will be present fulltime at the Pod to answer basic questions and give a tour of the Pod.
Contact: Fiona Sharman <>

17 Sept – DAY 2 SYMPOSIUM (1.00 – 4.30, 5.00 – 7.00)
DAY 1: 16 September 2013.
10.30 -11.00
The Photon Project: Pioneering Healthy Living through Light.
Presented by Charlie Sharman, MD Cantifix and Brent Richards,
Director, Transpolis Global.
10.00-11.00: Living Under Glass: Presenting the Photon
Research at Oxford University. Present the project and future plans. Purpose of Symposium is to discuss the design implications of light in relation the living environment- and future policy making e.g. space light standards, RIBA lobbying for light space factors to be included in design of future housing.
Press Q & A with Brent Richards and Charlie Sharman.

Theme 1: Daylight + Health & Well Being
Moderator: Paul Finch, Deputy Chair of the Design Council UK
1.40 – 1.45 KEYNOTE INTRO: Paul Finch; Deputy Chair of Design
Council Editorial Director Architects Journal. ON HEALTH &
(1) 1.45 – 2.05: Research into Human Factors within Health &
Wellbeing (title to follow)
Prof Dr Steve Lockley
Harvard Medical School Boston USA
(2) 2.05 – 2.25: On Crowd-sourcing Grand Designs Solutions (Final Title to follow)
Mike Roberts: CEO HAB Housing (Kevin McCloud, MD, Grand Designs)
Bristol UK
(3) 2.25 – 2.45: On Human Interaction and the Importance of Light
(Final Title to follow)
Prof Dr Marilyne Andersen
EPFL Lausanne Switzerland

Break & Refreshments.

Theme 2 – Daylight + Science & Technology
(4) 3.30 – 3.50: On The Technology of Glass (Final title to follow)
Tim MacFarlane : Glass UK
(5) 3.50 – 3.10: On Nanotechnology and Glass (Final title to follow)
Dr Martin Kemp : NanoKTN
(6) 4.10 – 4.30 On Developing light with space in the building industry. Carbon neutral housing and applications for integrated sustainability. (Final title to follow)
Paul Hicks: Velux GB

Round Table: Health and Science – the facts, the technology, the ideas and the potential.
4.45 – 5.45 All Presenters Chaired by Paul Finch
5.45 – 6.15 Q&A + Summary for Day 1 Symposium
DAY 2 ~ 17th September
NO PRESS ON THIS DAY- for a broader design audience.
Theme 3 – Daylight + Architecture & Design
Moderator : Paul Finch
1.00-1.15 Intro: The Photon Project: Implications for all types of design, the Plans and the Potential.
Charlie Sharman : MD Cantifix & Brent Richards, Transpolis.

(7) 1.15 – 1.35 On the architecture of light (Final title to follow)
John Pawson
(8) 1.35 – 1.55 On making better architecture. (Final title to follow)
Dikon Robinson CEO
Living Architecture
(9) 1.55 – 2.25 The Science of Design
Sean Carney
Chief Design Officer /Senior Vice President Philips

20 mins: Break and refreshments

MAIN SYMPOSIUM Round Table: How can Design facilitate Science?
(Recommended for editorial press)
(x 9 no. participants)
2.30 – 4.00
– All Presenters + Chair Paul Finch
– Rebecca Roberts-Hughes: RIBA Policy Unit
– Mike Roberts: HAB Housing
– Prof Dr Marilyne: Andersen EPFL
– Brent Richards : Transpolis Global
– Charlie Sharman : Cantifix
– Dr Heather Berlin*: Cognitive Scientist
– Prof. Debra Skene*: Center for Chronobiology
– Danny Lane: American Glass Artist based in UK
(NB:* Roundtable participants to be confirmed)

4.00 – 4.30 Q&A
4.30: Summary of both days.
5.00 – End of Photon Symposium
Mingle in the Building Centre Exhibition Area.

Story of Water

STORY OF WATER mood trailer from imaginarylife on Vimeo.
By Tanya, Peter & Friends.

Story of Water is film about love, language and loss. The films form a portrait of two people we never see; the filmmaker, a woman who has come back to Stockholm to search for her missing lover. She meets people who knew him, interviewing them about their connection with him and why he disappeared. These interviews form the backbone of the narrative.

Non-actors were interviewed without a script, and asked not to mention the names of the (real) people they speak about. Speaking only in the ‘you’ and ‘he/she’ form, their words build up a portrait of the two lovers, through real life stories that express in everyone’s second language, their own life ‘philosophy’ – how they came to live in Stockholm, and how one person’s identity is never fixed, but contains facets of all the places we have lived in, all the people we meet, and those we have loved and lost.

In the story, the girl puts up stickers in Stockholm to try and find her lover. As part of the making of the film, real stickers were put up in cities across the world. People who saw those stickers wrote back and spread more stickers in their cities. In the film, we start to see that the girl has been searching for him all over the world. Photographs of the stickers and anonymous e-mail responses are included in the  film, as texts and in the sound track.

Story of Water is shot on Super 8, 16mm and digital video, forming an overlapping narrative that crosses memory, dream and real-life footage in a city that is both separated and connected by water.

It’s a film that has to remain fluid and ambition-less, but the ground work has been done. All we need now is some time to write & weave in footage collected over years – to work further on the soundtrack and audio. This sketch was cut a few years back now. Music by Aki Onda.

If you are interesting in supporting this project in some small way, just drop Tanya & Peter a line on


Futureperfect festival at Grinda, Sweden 2013

What is Futureperfect?
Looking forward to attending the festival next week: 15-17 August 2013.
Unlike many conferences, Futureperfect is geared to connect people for continued work after the event. See more on their website.

Here are extracts from a message from its founder, John Manoochehri:

“In short, Futureperfect is a love letter to reality. Wait, no, it’s a marriage proposal to reality.
Futurepefect exists to connect people to ideas, to feelings, to each other, to projects, and to the world around them – in a way that enables change to happen. It’s about how, by bringing people together in a great way, great things happen.

Next week, 15-17 August, we hold our third summer event in a new venue, Grinda, in partnership with Grinda Wärdhus, Skärgårdsstiftelsen, and more… There’ll be 50 of the top speakers and actors in sustainable themes from across Sweden and Europe open for discussion and interaction – from architecture and cities, to design and creativity, to finance and enterprise, to water and nature, to culture and youth, and more. And there will be nature, great bands and djs, yoga, walks, kayaking, and not least world-class food – by Michelin-starred Gastrologik, the Brydling Sisters, and Grinda Wärdshus itself.

After Futureperfect 2013 summer event, Futureperfect is organising the Urban Futures Forum at BIG architects in Copenhagen, in collaboration with the Danish Ministry of Environment, for a group of 40 international architects, developers and financiers. And then we are planning to release an autumn and spring calendar of smaller events – and to develop a much larger festival for 2014 on Grinda.

Firstly, I really would like you to come to our summer event next week, and if that’s not possible, for you to consider joining – even from far away – in future years. I’d like you to look up the event at, and consider how you can be part of it, whether as a professional, generally curious person, or a partner. Consider whether your friends and colleagues might enjoy it.

I feel simultaneously almost pure motivation and gratitude when I consider the magic of the world we get to live in – whether it be the physics of stuff, the colours and fluffy creatures out there in the living world, music and film, human culture and technology in all its weird complexity, playing marble-flicking games on an iPad with my sister in Venice in an AirBnB apartment rented by my mum – coupled with an ocean of worry when I consider how poorly the society I live in is waking up to this potential.

You could become an organisational member, if you want your business and organisation to move forward in this sustainability stuff in way that is rich in specific content, but wrapped in a fun and high-quality community. Join as an individual if you feel other ways to engage with sustainability maybe aren’t providing a space for your own development and creativity. Write to me at for a personal description of why I think you should join! Membership sign up is here:

Thanks. I like this place we live in. I love it. I really want us to stick around, create and share the wealth, long enough and well enough, to find out what’s really going on. Let’s make the Futureperfect.


A place on earth: Share this message to save Tipi Village in Oregon

We’ve had some contact with a small band of families, parents, kids and all, who have been living in a way that feel is in harmony with their surroundings. It’s an important & inspiring story. It is said that we are only 6 degrees of separation from any other person in the world. Please share this message with your network. There is a good chance some of you know someone who can has a spare 300K USD knocking around. This land is going to be taken away on behalf of the federal government. The community needs money to stop them.

Here’s their message to share:

“We live on a mountain. A group of folk living off-grid, in tipi dwellings, in the Cascade-Siskiyou wilderness. The land on which we live is being offered for sale. An outside organization is attempting to buy the land for conservation and remove our village with the belief that people and forests are not healthy companions. We know this to be untrue, so we have created The Land Liberation Project.The imminent goal is to purchase this land and place it into a land trust, ensuring no future development of the land as well as a stipulation that it is to never be sold again. We are seeking support in many venues, and the assistance of your donation, however large or small, will give us leverage in our quest for survival.
Tax deductibility of your contribution to the Tipi Village Land Liberation fund is secured through our association with the Way Foundation (EarthTeach), an Oregon public trust with federal 5013C not-for-profit status. For more information go to Land Liberation Project. If you are interested in purchasing a Tipi go to Rogue Dwellings.