Eino Pitkänen, born 9 January 1904 in Kuopio, was one of Northern Finland’s most significant architects. His architectural practice in Kajaani was the first architecture office in Northern Finland.
Pitkänen studied architecture in 1923–1931 at Helsinki University of Technology. From an architectural point of view, the time period was interesting, as new ideas of Functionalism emerged alongside the 1920s Classicism. The most notable of Pitkänen’s early works are the Carlson Commercial Building in Kuopio (1929), Iisalmi Church (1934), and Riistavesi Church (1934), which Pitkänen designed together with architect Harry W. Schreck. All these reflect the 1920s Classism.
In 1934, Pitkänen moved to Kajaani. While establishing himself as an architect in his new hometown, he worked as a drawing and sculpture teacher. The first more challenging design works in Kajaani were the Police Station building (1934), which already embodies the ideals of Functionalism, and Kainuun Sanomat printing house (1936). The functionalistic Villa Koskikara (1940), the residence of the chief executive officer of Puutavara corporation, was built on the shore of River Kajaanijoki.
Pitkänen’s body of work cannot be assessed without looking into the extensive design work he did for the enterprise Kajaani Oy. The work included industrial buildings, power plants, workers dwellings in blocks of flats and single-family houses, management’s residences as well as interior design and furniture.
Pitkänen’s significance as the moderniser of post-war Kajaani’s cityscape is essential. The wooden city torn by war was shaped into a modern city with some of the nation’s finest functionalistic architecture. During post-war reconstruction, school buildings played a significant role in the design work of Pitkänen’s architecture office. Pitkänen was also responsible for designing several hydropower plants along the River Oulujoki watercourse in the Kainuu Region. In addition to the Kainuu Region, Pitkänen designed schools in other regions, too, such as North Karelia, Northern Savonia and Central Finland. The scope of Pitkänen’s school designs runs from Vehmersalmi primary school (late-1920s) to Kajaani girls’ lyceum (1955).
A third thread in Pitkänen’s career comprised single buildings designed around the country and in particular the eastern and northern regions. In Oulu, Pitkänen’s works include the mixed-use landmark building Valkealinna (1941) and the former Osuuspankki bank building (1955) later transformed into Rio cinema theatre. In addition to Kuopio and Kajaani, Pitkänen also had an impact on the cityscapes of Iisalmi and Äänekoski. In 1953, Pitkänen settled in Äänekoski where he designed the municipal office building in 1954. Next year, on 11 August 1955, Pitkänen passed away in Helsinki.
Text: Päivi Tervonen