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.