Timo Penttilä

Last updated

Timo Jussi Penttilä
Planning Helsinki City Theatre in 1964: from the left, Jukka Siivola, Pekka Salminen and Timo Penttilä
Born(1931-03-16)16 March 1931
Died25 February 2011(2011-02-25) (aged 79)
Nationality Finnish
PracticeArkkitehtitoimisto Timo Penttilä
BuildingsHelsinki City Theatre
Sampola House, Tampere
Hanasaari power station, Helsinki
Helsinki City Theatre, 1967 Helsingin kaupunginteatteri2008d.jpg
Helsinki City Theatre, 1967

Timo Jussi Penttilä (16 March 1931 25 February 2011) was one of Finland's most important modernist architects and was for over 15 years a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna in Austria. He is most renowned for the design of the Helsinki City Theatre (1961–67).


Early life and education

Timo Jussi Penttilä was born 16 March 1931 in Tampere to Arvo Mikko Penttilä and Ester Elviira Matinheimo. His father was agronomist and acted as a supervisor improving cattle in the country. Penttilä graduated from Tampere secondary school in 1950 and went on to study architecture at Helsinki University of Technology, graduating in 1956.


In 1957–1959 he worked for architect Aarne Ervi before founding his own office. His breakthrough work was Sampola House, the Tampere Adult Education Centre, which Penttilä designed together with Kari Virta in 1958 and which was completed in 1960. The following year, at the age of 30, Penttilä won the architecture competition for the design of the Helsinki City Theatre, a work which when completed in 1967 received much critical acclaim. The building is an example of Penttilä's soft, human-centric Modernism which has similarities to the mature works of Finland's most well-known architect, Alvar Aalto; indeed the building is often mistakenly assumed to be an Aalto design.

The Helsinki City Theatre has remained Penttilä's most renowned work, but among his other building designs the best known are the Ratina Stadium in Tampere (1965) the Hanasaari B power station in Helsinki (1974), the Salmisaari power station (with Kari Lind and Heikki Saarela) in Helsinki (1985). During his career, Penttilä was criticized within the Finnish architectural profession for following uncompromisingly the modernist desire for experimentation and for defending the autonomy of architecture. Penttilä was director of the Museum of Finnish Architecture in 1976–1980, and was a frequent contributor to the Finnish Architecture Review (Arkkitehti) from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, writing a number of polemical articles about architecture and the profession. An exhibition of his works was held at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London in 1980.

During the late 1970s, Penttilä participated in a number of architectural competitions for the design of cultural and public buildings in the Middle East, including Bahrain's cultural centre (1976), the Iranian National Library in Tehran (1978), and the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1979) - but none of which were built. In the later 1980s he courted controversy by designing a series of four 40-storey skyscrapers for the centre of his home town, Tampere. Local grass-roots opposition brought an end to the scheme which had been commissioned by the industrial company Tampella to redevelop an area where their factory then presently stood.

Penttilä was a visiting lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley in 1968–69. He was professor of architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna from 1980 to 1996, where he succeeded Roland Rainer. After his retirement he lived in Italy and Lapland (Finland). Following his death it emerged that he had written an extensive book on architecture theory. This was eventually published in 2013, by the Finnish publishers Gaudeamus, under the title "Oikeat ja väärät arkkitehdit – 2000 vuotta arkkitehtuuriteoriaa" (Right and wrong architects – 2000 years of architecture theory). Excerpts from his notes, written in English, have been in published in Roger Connah's book "The School of Exile – Timo Penttilä for and against architecture theory" (2015).

Penttilä died 25 February 2011 in Helsinki.

Penttilä’s completed works

Selection of works by Timo Penttilä

Related Research Articles

Tapiola District of Espoo in Finland

Tapiola is a district of the municipality of Espoo on the south coast of Finland, and is one of the major urban centres of Espoo. It is located in the western part of Greater Helsinki. The name Tapiola is derived from Tapio, who is the forest god of Finnish mythology, especially as expressed in the Kalevala.

Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture

Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture; Finnish: Aalto-yliopiston taiteiden ja suunnittelun korkeakoulu; Swedish: Aalto-universitetets högskola för konst, design och arkitektur), was formed of two separate schools: the faculty of architecture and the University of Art and Design Helsinki. TaiK, founded in 1871, was the largest art university in the Nordic countries. The university awards the following academic degrees: Bachelor of Science in Technology, Architect, Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, and Doctor of Arts.

Reima and Raili Pietilä Finnish architect

Frans Reima Ilmari Pietilä was a Finnish architect and theorist. He did most of his work together with his wife Raili Pietilä ; indeed, after 1963 all their works were officially attributed to "Raili and Reima Pietilä". Reima Pietilä was a professor of architecture at the University of Oulu from 1973 to 1979.


Länsiväylä is a motorway in the Greater Helsinki area of Finland, mainly at the Helsinki conurbation. It is part of the Finnish national road 51. The road begins in Ruoholahti in western Helsinki and continues west through the island of Lauttasaari and then across the city border to Espoo. The Länsiväylä road continues all the way throughout the southern part of Espoo. It continues as a motorway until finally crossing the border west to Kirkkonummi.

Tampere Stadium Stadium in Tampere, Finland

Tampere Stadium, also known as Ratina Stadium, designed by architect Timo Penttilä and completed in 1965, is a multi-purpose stadium in Tampere, Finland, with a seating capacity of 16,800 people, and up to 32,000 people for concerts. In 2018, the stadium hosted the IAAF World U20 Championships.

Aarno Ruusuvuori

Aarno Emil Ruusuvuori was a Finnish architect, professor and director of the Museum of Finnish Architecture. He studied at Helsinki University of Technology, completing his studies in 1951.

Vilhelm Helander Finnish architect

Arne Anders Vilhem Helander, is a Finnish architect and was Professor of Architecture History at Helsinki University of Technology, Espoo, Finland from 1986 until 2005, when he became Professor Emeritus.

Juha Leiviskä Finnish architect and designer

Juha Ilmari Leiviskä is a prominent Finnish architect and designer. He is especially known for his churches and other sacral buildings.

Kristian Valter Alexander Gullichsen was a Finnish architect. The son of Harry and Maire Gullichsen, he was born into a family of industrialists, designers and artists. His siblings were the renowned Finnish philosopher Lilli Alanen and Johan Gullichsen, a professor of engineering. Kristian Gullichsen had three sons and two daughters, one of the sons was the artist Alvar Gullichsen. Gullichsen was married twice; his second wife was architect Kirsi Gullichsen.

Aarne Ervi

Aarne Adrian Ervi was one of the most important architects of Finland's post-World War II reconstruction period.

Architecture of Finland

The architecture of Finland has a history spanning over 800 years, and while up until the modern era the architecture was strongly influenced by currents from Finland's two respective neighbouring ruling nations Sweden and Russia, from the early 19th century onwards influences came directly from further afield: first when itinerant foreign architects took up positions in the country and then when the Finnish architect profession became established.

Roger Connah is a Welsh writer, and independent scholar based in Ruthin, North Wales, and has taught for over three decades in Finland, India, Pakistan, Sweden, Canada, and the United States. He is currently professor of architecture at the Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.

Kari Jormakka

Kari Juhani Jormakka was a Finnish architect, historian, critic and pedagogue. Though born in Helsinki, his family soon afterwards moved to the city of Lappeenranta, where he spent his childhood. After finishing school in Lappeenranta, he initially studied philosophy at the University of Helsinki before switching to studying architecture at Helsinki University of Technology, graduating in 1985. He completed a PhD in architecture theory, with a thesis titled "Constructing Architecture", at Tampere University of Technology in 1992.

Heikkinen – Komonen Architects

Heikkinen – Komonen Architects is a Finnish architectural firm established by Mikko Heikkinen and Markku Komonen in Helsinki in 1974. Their work is characterised as a fusion between minimalism, high-technology and Abstract expressionism, typified by their design for the Vuotalo Cultural Centre in Helsinki, or the Heureka Science Centre, in Vantaa with the juxtaposition of stark concrete elements against colourful high-tech metal structures and large glazed surfaces. They have also completed a number of small-scale humanitarian projects for Guinea, west Africa, based on local building traditions.

Rainer Mahlamäki Finnish architect

Rainer Mahlamäki is a Finnish architect, president of the Finnish Association of Architects (SAFA) from 2007 to 2011, Professor of Contemporary Architecture at the University of Oulu, and joint partner with Ilmari Lahdelma of the Helsinki-based architecture firm Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects, one of the most prolific such firms in Finland. A significant part of their work started as entries in architectural competitions, in which they have received 35 first prizes.

Hilding Ekelund Finnish architect

Georg Hilding Ekelund was a Finnish architect, from 1950 to 1958 a professor of housing design at Helsinki University of Technology and from 1931 to 1934 editor-in-chief of the Finnish architects' journal Arkkitehti. His career as an architect spans the change in styles in Finland from the Nordic Classicism of the 1920s to the Modernism of the 1970s.

Pekka Salminen

Pekka Salminen is a Finnish Professor of Architecture and founder and a senior partner of PES-Architects, formed in 1968, in Helsinki, Finland. He is also the founder of Unije Workshop International UWI, and the Centre for Architecture and Urban Planning, formed in Unije, Croatia, in 1987.

Usko Nyström Finnish architect and lecturer at Helsinki University of Technology

Zachris Usko Nyström, known as Usko Nyström, was a Finnish architect and one of the most influential professors of architecture at Helsinki University of Technology; among his students were later notable architects Eliel Saarinen and Alvar Aalto. One of the pioneering architects of the early Art Nouveau or Jugendstil style in Finland at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, he continued to influence generations of students by introducing them to the style. Many of his key architectural works were made while he was in the architectural partnership Usko Nyström─Petrelius─Penttilä which operated from 1895 to 1908. His most famous work is the Grand Hôtel Cascade (1903) in Imatra.

Aulis Blomstedt Finnish architect

Yrjö Aulis Uramo Blomstedt was a Finnish architect and professor of architecture at the Helsinki University of Technology. He was a renowned modernist architect and architectural theoretician in the decades following the Second World War. Blomstedt was born into an architect family: his father Yrjö Blomstedt was an architect known for his National Romantic Jugend architecture, while his older brother Pauli E. Blomstedt was, until his premature death at the age of 35, a pioneering early modernist architect. His other brother, Jussi Jalas, was a composer. Blomstedt was married to Heidi Blomstedt, the daughter of the composer Jean Sibelius. They had two children, the artist Juhana Blomstedt and the architect Severi Blomstedt.

Esa Piironen Finnish architect (born 1943)

Esa Erkki Piironen is a Finnish architect. He studied architecture at Helsinki University of Technology, qualifying as an architect in 1970. He studied architecture and urban design in North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, and was awarded the Master of Architecture in 1972. He was working as a teaching assistant at Helsinki University of Technology 1972–81, and was awarded Licentiate in Technology in 1978. Visiting professor at Guangdong University of Technology School of Art and Design starting from 2012.