The hydroelectric power plants and communities along the watercourses of River Oulujoki, stand as one of the largest construction projects in the post-war reconstruction period of Finland. They are some of the most significant and coherent pieces of industrial architecture in the country. The power plants and residential areas connected to them were built in the middle of wilderness using methods of modern architecture and engineering.
Harnessing these northern rivers was a brave venture, with optimism and unwavering faith in the possibilities of modern technology. It tells a story of a war-torn country in the middle of modernisation. It also tells much about the zeitgeist of the era. Today, this well-preserved built heritage is a testament of the creativity and work ethic of the architects and engineers who designed these facilities, as as well as their builders.
The power plants were built out of necessity in the reconstruction of Finland after the Second World War and to pay the heavy war reparations. In addition, the country was in the midst of industrialisation and needed electricity for its factories. The architects of these hydropower plants included Aarne Ervi (1910–1977), Eino Pitkänen (1904–1955) and Bertel Strömmer (1890–1962).
In 2019–2021, an inventory and documentation project on the hydropower plants in the River Oulujoki watercourse was carried out by the Council of Oulu Region and co-financed in Finland by EU Interreg Nord programme, Regional Council of Lapland, Regional Council of Kainuu and local energy companies. Read more about the Cultural Heritage of Hydropower Architecture (VekuVaku) project through this link (opens in new tab).
Text: Samuli Paitsola