Pekka Pitkänen (1927–2018) was a master of concrete buildings and a staunch supporter of the modernist approach to architecture.
Pitkänen founded his own office in Turku in 1954. He was a mentor to several architects who later founded their own offices, including Ola Laiho, Mikko Pulkkinen, Ilpo Raunio, Matti Nurmela, Esa Piironen, and Matti Takala. Pitkänen’s office was successful in many architectural competitions. Pitkänen travelled extensively with his colleagues, visiting several classics of Modernism on site. Le Corbusier was a key influence, and most ambitious trips included a 1962 trip to the USA including visits to Mies van der Rohe’s, Eero Saarinen’s and Frank Lloyd Wright’s works, and several tours to Switzerland in the 1960s.
Pitkänen designed numerous sacral buildings. Chapel of the Holy Cross (1963-1967) in Turku Cemetery is considered as his main work, and one of the most important modernist sacral buildings in Finland. Pitkänen developed a concept of modern congregation centre with the churches of Hirvensalo (1962) and Pallivaha (1968) in Turku, as well as the church of Harjavalta (1983-1984).
Pitkänen’s office also specialised in residential planning. In the city centre of Turku, his works include the housing co-operatives Carenia (1961-1962) and Wilenia (1962-1963), as well as Domus Aboensis, a student union dormitory of the university Åbo Akademi (1964-1965). The housing estate of Suikkila and a significant part of the apartment houses of Kurala, Luolavuori, Runosmäki, Pansio, Varissuo and Vasaramäki suburbs in Turku were planned in Pitkänen’s office.
The final work of Pekka Pitkänen’s long career was the Turku Courthouse, completed in 1997.
Text: Mikko Laaksonen