Juhani Pallasmaa, The Soft-Spoken Finn With Big Ideas

White-haired Juhani Pallasmaa, Finnish Architect and Educator
Photo © Soppakanuuna via Wikimedia Commons, Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)

During his wildly prolific career, Juhani Pallasmaa has designed more than buildings. Through books, essays, and lectures, Pallasmaa has created an empire of ideas. How many young architects have been inspired by Pallasmaa's teaching and his classic text, The Eyes of the Skin, about architecture and the senses?

Architecture is a craft and an art to Pallasmaa. It has to be both, which makes architecture an "impure" or "messy" discipline. The soft-spoken Juhani Pallasmaa has formulated and described the essence of architecture all of his life.


  • Born: September 14, 1936 in Hämeenlinna, Finland
  • Full Name: Juhani Uolevi Pallasmaa
  • Education: 1966: Helsinki University of Technology, Master of Science in Architecture

Selected Projects

In Finland, Juhani Pallasmaa is known as a Constructivist. His work has been inspired by the simplicity of Japanese architecture and the abstraction of modern Deconstructivism. His only work in the US is the arrival plaza at Cranbrook Academy of Art (1994).

  • 2003 to 2006: Kamppi Centre, Helsinki.
  • 2004: Snow Show (with Rachel Whiteread), Lapland
  • 2002 to 2003: Bank of Finland Museum, Helsinki
  • 2002: Pedestrian and cycle bridge, Viikki Eco-village, Helsinki
  • 1989 to 1991 Major extensions to Itäkeskus Shopping Centre, Helsinki
  • 1990 to 1991: Outdoor spaces for Ruoholahti Residential Area, Helsinki
  • 1986 to 1991: Institut Finlandais (with Roland Schweitzer), Paris
  • 1987: Phone Booth Design for Helsinki Telephone Association
  • 1986: Renovation of Helsinki Old Market Hall, Helsinki
  • 1984 to 1986: Renovation of the Art Museum in Rovaniemi
  • 1970: Summer atelier of artist Tor Arne, Vänö Island

About Juhani Pallasmaa

He promotes a back-to-basics, evolutionary approach to architecture that has become revolutionary in the 21st century. He told interviewer Rachel Hurst that computers have been misused to replace human thought and imagination:

"The computer has no capacity for empathy, for compassion. The computer cannot imagine the use of space. But the most important thing is that the computer cannot hesitate. Working between the mind and the hand we often hesitate, and we reveal our own answers in our hesitations."

Pallasmaa also suggests that architects and designers read novels and poetry to better understand architecture. Juhani Pallasmaa’s Book List is an eclectic mix of unexpected titles:

"In my view, literature and the arts provide deep lessons on the essences of the world and life. Because architecture is fundamentally about life, I find the literary classics, or any fine novels and poems, to be essential books on architecture."

Writings and Teaching

In spite of the many architecture projects he has completed, Pallasmaa may be best-known as a theorist and educator. He has taught at universities all over the world, including Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He has written and lectured extensively on cultural philosophy, environmental psychology, and architectural theory. His works are read in many architecture classrooms around the world:

  • Questions of Perception: Phenomenology of Architecture by Steven Holl, Juhani Pallasmaa, and Alberto Perez-Gomez
  • The Embodied Image: Imagination and Imagery in Architecture by Juhani Pallasmaa, Wiley, 2011
  • The Thinking Hand by Juhani Pallasmaa, Wiley, 2009
  • The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses (1996) by Juhani Pallasmaa, Wiley, 2012
  • Encounters: Architectural Essays by Juhani Pallasmaa, Peter MacKeith, editor, 2006
  • Encounters 2 - Architectural Essays by Juhani Pallasmaa, Peter MacKeith, editor, 2012
  • Archipelago: Essays on Architecture by Juhani Pallasmaa, Peter MacKeith, editor
  • Understanding Architecture by Robert McCarter and Juhani Pallasmaa, Phaidon, 2012
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Craven, Jackie. "Juhani Pallasmaa, The Soft-Spoken Finn With Big Ideas." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, thoughtco.com/juhani-pallasmaa-finnish-architect-177421. Craven, Jackie. (2021, February 16). Juhani Pallasmaa, The Soft-Spoken Finn With Big Ideas. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/juhani-pallasmaa-finnish-architect-177421 Craven, Jackie. "Juhani Pallasmaa, The Soft-Spoken Finn With Big Ideas." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/juhani-pallasmaa-finnish-architect-177421 (accessed February 8, 2023).