Juhani Pallasmaa, The Soft-Spoken Finn With Big Ideas

Finnish Architect b. 1936

White-haired Juhani Pallasmaa, Finnish Architect and Educator
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 (YouTube video) 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).

  • 2003-2006: Kamppi Centre, Helsinki.
  • 2004: Snow Show (with Rachel Whiteread), Lapland
  • 2002-2003: Bank of Finland Museum, Helsinki
  • 2002: Pedestrian and cycle bridge, Viikki Eco-village, Helsinki
  • 1989-91 Major extensions to Itäkeskus Shopping Centre, Helsinki
  • 1990-91: Outdoor spaces for Ruoholahti Residential Area, Helsinki
  • 1986-1991: Institut Finlandais (with Roland Schweitzer), Paris
  • 1987: Phone Booth Design for Helsinki Telephone Association
  • 1986: Renovation of Helsinki Old Market Hall, Helsinki
  • 1984-1986: 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," he has said. "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," he told Designers & Books. "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

Learn More: