Aarne Ervi (1910–1977) is considered one of the most significant architects of post-war Finland, alongside Alvar Aalto. Ervi was born in the town of Forssa and graduated as an architect from the Helsinki University of Technology in 1935. This was a time when Functionalism had already made its breakthrough in Finnish architecture.
Aarne Ervi was a versatile architect. Following his graduation, Ervi worked in Alvar Aalto’s office, assisting in the design of the Viipuri Library. Ervi’s work history also includes a short period at the office of architect Toivo Paatela. In 1938, Ervi founded his own architecture office. In addition to design work and running his office, Ervi worked for the City of Helsinki as director the city planning department in 1965–69.
Before and after the Second World War, Ervi held teaching positions at the University of Industrial Art and Helsinki University of Technology. In 1967, Ervi was conferred the title of professor.
Aarne Ervi made many study trips and was internationally inclined. He was invited as an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects and Hungarian Association of Architects and received an honorary doctorate of the University of Stuttgart.
Ervi’s intimate relation with nature is reflected in his design work, the basis of which was taking nature and the landscape into consideration. Excellent examples of this are the River Oulujoki power plants and their residential areas, which are considered as some of Ervi’s key works. The most renowned work of Ervi is the design for the Tapiola garden city in Espoo, after a winning entry in the urban design competition of 1954. In addition to the city plan and the pools and fountains, Ervi’s buildings in Tapiola include the Heikintori Department store, Tapiola Swimming Hall and Tapiola Central Tower.
Other remarkable designs by Ervi include the University of Turku Campus, the Helsinki University Porthania Building and Töölö Library. Ervi also designed several school buildings, residential areas and private homes with their interiors. After the Second World War, during the reconstruction period, Ervi designed several hydropower plants with residential areas along the River Oulujoki watercourse. A curiosity in Ervi’s early career are the petrol stations he designed around Finland for Shell Oil Company.
Ervi was a well-liked and sought-after employer. It is said that the atmosphere in his office was warm and straightforward, despite the rush. A fair portion of the drawings of Ervi’s work is conserved and stored in the archives of the Museum of Finnish Architecture.
Text: Päivi Tervonen