Paavo Lipponen studied American literature and philosophy in the United States and graduated with a Master’s degree in political science from the University of Helsinki, majoring in international politics. He has served as the International Secretary for the Finnish Social Democratic Party and the Director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. In his political career, he has served as the Chairman of the Finnish Social Democratic Party, Member of Parliament, Prime Minister and Speaker of the Parliament.
One of Lipponen’s main interests outside his career is architecture. He has travelled widely throughout Europe, from Rome to Copenhagen and from St Petersburg to London in pursuit of his interest in buildings, in particular those of the Baroque period. He names Borromini, Guarini, Neumann, Fischer von Erlach and Rastrelli as his favourite Baroque architects. Of later architectural periods, Lipponen is also interested in Jugendstil and modern Finnish functionalism.
In the 1980s, Lipponen played an active role as a member of the Helsinki City Council in the debate on the development of Helsinki city centre, and especially the area around Töölönlahti bay. He argued against extensive monumental squares on the basis of, for example, social psychology, which was his second subject at university. In Lipponen’s view, the area should be built so as to form smaller, intimate squares, as suggested by Camillo Sitte.
During Lipponen’s terms as Prime Minister, Finland acquired its first ever architectural policy programme in 1998. His governments promoted wood construction, with the Sibelius Hall in Lahti and the European Forest Institute in Joensuu as examples. At the opening of Alvar Aalto’s 100th anniversary exhibition in New York, Lipponen proposed the establishment of the Aalto Academy, an idea that has since materialised. He chairs the Alvar Aalto en France association in France, with the aim of preserving and protecting Alvar Aalto’s design Maison Louis Carre, and he has given talks on architecture in Finland, France and Austria. Currently Lipponen dedicates much of his time to the protection of built cultural heritage.
Lipponen has published articles and books on international questions, two memoirs and a collection of essays Järki voittaa (Reason will triumph), with an updated German edition Die Vernunft siegt published in Berlin in 2014. He is a passionate advocate for the knowledge of Swedish and German among Finns.
Paavo is married to Päivi Lipponen, PhD, and has three daughters.
Statement of the judge
As an aficionado of architecture, I am fully aware that due consideration needs to be given to a range of issues in the selection of the winner of the Finlandia Prize for Architecture: the form of the building, suitability for intended use, structural design including materials, compatibility with the town plan and the urban landscape as well as costs. The individual aspects can be stressed differently.
All four candidates are strong in all the departments. We can be truly proud of them: they keep Finland at the absolute leading edge of architecture. Each of them is, in its own way, a temple of wellbeing: spiritual, cultural, corporal and social.
Railo, the spectator stand building in the Rovaniemi Sports Arena designed by Arkkitehtityöhuone APRT Oy, towers like a monumental landmark in the city. It fits perfectly into the ‘reindeer antler’ town plan designed by Alvar Aalto in 1954. At that time, the town was beginning to re-emerge from the ashes to become a proud Aalto city, rivalled only by Jyväskylä in its claim as Finland’s Aalto capital.
As a structure, Railo is complete in itself – it does not entail any other building on the opposite side of the street to create the impression of a ‘railo’ (crevasse in Finnish). When approached from the end, Railo appears immensely high. Attention is drawn to the wavelike form on the side facing the street and the partly wood-covered steel structures. The overall impression is lighter than if the building had been made of concrete.
Railo’s roof is not a protruding peak because the end walls give a sense of a more closed space.
With its two levels, the spectator stand is skilfully designed to give an unobstructed view of the pitch. The seats of different colours add to the visual appeal. The building is highly functional for all users: access to the spectator stand is easy, players can walk in directly from the bus, the banquet hall can be readily converted into a conference room and the VIP area is ideal for entertaining guests.
The construction costs of this large multipurpose building are astonishingly low, less than five million euros. Of course, compromises had to be made, as in all projects, especially public ones, yet it does not show in Railo.
The sports arena is equally suitable for athletics and other events round the year. Thanks to the spectator stand, the structure provides a venue for a wide range of events from winter festivities to parades. As a counterbalance, the monumental spectator stand still requires another stand of equally high-standard on the opposite side.
It would be advisable to develop the sport arena site both as a sports field and a built-up area organically linked to the city centre. To accomplish this and make full use of Railo, a bridge over Poromiehentie Street is essential to interconnect the arena and the Korundi Cultural Centre.
Fidelity to Aalto’s town plan secures Rovaniemi’s position as a showcase of Finnish architecture and wellness design. Every effort must be made to preserve Aalto’s buildings and milieu.
My choice of the winner was influenced by my emotional bond to the North. I spent the first five years of my life in Lapland. By my choice I wish to draw the world’s attention to the North, the home of superb architecture and many other world-class achievements. In marketing Finland, we rely too much on the exotic.
Ultimately, my selection was decided simply by the impression made by the architecture. I walked across the pitch and turned to look at the spectator stand directly from the front. What I saw was a building perfect in its form, as if a classic temple had risen under the northern sky.