The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

Väinö Vähäkallio and His Office – an Architect's Life Work and Networks

Aino Niskanen

Dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Science in Technology to be presented with due permission of the Department of Architecture for public examination and debate in Auditorium E at Helsinki University of Technology (Espoo, Finland) on the 10th of June, 2005, at 12 noon.

Dissertation in PDF format (ISBN 951-22-7989-4)   [10648 KB]
Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 951-22-7642-9)

Note: The language of the dissertation is Finnish.


Väinö Vähäkallio (1886-1959) was one of Finland's most prolific and recognized architects of the 1920s and 1930s. Of his realized projects, a full 150 remain. This monograph is based primarily on an analysis of Vähäkallio's buildings themselves and the various documents pertaining to them. The central questions of the study are the fundamental questions about modernity and modernization in Finland. The study asks: In what way did Vähäkallio's commissions reflect the modernization of Finnish society itself? Was there something modern about his professionalism even if his artistic work was not in the avant-garde? These questions are answered through an analysis of the architect's professional image, his networks and his artistic production. The study aims to expand the notion of the architect's role and style by examining his designs for several building types, especially from the 1920s and 1930s.

The modernization of Finnish society provided Vähäkallio with his most important professional opportunities in education, business, industry, and the increasingly important area of leisure. Many factors made Vähäkallio a successful architect: good networks, responsiveness to the changing tastes of different types of clients, a sensitivity to fashion, his rational designs and his expertise in new building technologies.

Despite his importance Vähäkallio has been ignored in the histories of modern Finnish architecture. When "pure functionalism" was taken up as the modernist ideal from the 1950s Vähäkallio's stylistic diversity became a liability.

Keywords: Finnish architecture of the 20th century, functionalism, modernization, architectural profession, networks

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© 2005 Helsinki University of Technology

Last update 2011-05-26