An Architect’s path from a Finnish small town to the Metropolies of Russia

A little boy’s dream of becoming an artist eventually led to the largest Finnish architectural design office that does housing and urban designing in Russia, Arkkitehtisuunnittelu Jukka Tikkanen Ltd.

A Passion for Drawing

I grew up in the small Finnish city of Jyväskylä in Finland. As a child, I loved to draw, and from the beginning I have striven for perfection in what I do. During summer holidays, I often stayed from dawn to dusk at a stone quarry drawing boulders.

As a teenager, I decided to become an artist and started to study art. Finland’s top artists evaluated my first surrealistic paintings and urged me to continue studying. However, artists’ incomes are notoriously unstable, so I decided to apply to the Helsinki University of Technology to study architecture. I succeeded on my third attempt, when I decided to complete the entrance exam in a totally different way than the others did. I got the best score in Finland and a place at the university.

My studies proceeded very well and I caught the professors’ attention as I proved to be a young architect who was completely different than all my fellow students and annoyed them with my endless talk about performance and cost efficiency.

The Beginnings of an Architectural Office

During my second year of studies in 1982, I started up my own architectural office. My work was mostly designing detached houses, which increased as my good reputation spread. My workdays became longer and longer. My time and energy were no longer enough for both the practice and completing my studies. In 1985, I suffered a total “burnout” and moved back to my hometown, Jyväskylä. To continue my architectural work, I set up an office in the firewood storeroom in the basement of my parents’ house.

After designing nearly one thousand single-family houses, construction firms began to take note of my skills, and I was asked to design terraced houses. In 1989, a French-style architectural competition was organized in Jyväskylä to design five 12-story apartment buildings by the lake Jyväsjärvi. The construction company Veljekset Tynkkynen (today: Skanska) commissioned me for a competition proposal, even though I had never planned such high-rises. In January 1990, just after the death of my father, I received notification of winning the grand prize – the future of my office was secured. At the same time, this project (called Ainolanranta) became my final
thesis for the Helsinki University of Technology.

Specialization and Growth

Investors liked our concept of superior effectiveness and the impressive look of the solutions that my office eagerly developed. We focused exclusively on residential design and, in particular, on apartment building design, which was a field despised and considered impossible and under-paid by other architects. I was, however, convinced that by specializing and developing my own product and operations, I could also improve profitability. Our unique approach became the foundation for our competitiveness and growth.

We quickly grew into the largest architectural design office in Jyväskylä. After this, I set up offices in Helsinki and Tallinn. Soon our company planned nearly 10 percent of Finland’s annual new housing production, and all of the major construction companies and most important investors were among our clients.

Finnish Architectural Expertise to Russia

At the turn of the millennium, our reputation grew and we were known as the most effective architectural design office in Finland, producing the most profit for our customers. In 2003, I decided to get involved in export because there was a substantial market outside our borders. The first buildings were designed for the Ukraine. In 2004, the Finnish construction company YIT Lentek ordered the first buildings for St. Petersburg. Since then, we have been the largest Finnish architectural office that does residential design in Russia.

In 2010, we launched our own architectural office, “t-architects OOO”, in St. Petersburg. Our customers are Russian and international construction companies and investors. Our mission is to do everything in an entirely new way: Our draft plans are made with Finnish experience and expertise at our office in Jyväskylä. Permits and workshop drawings are taken care of by the experienced architects of our Russian office. In this way, we combine the best aspects of the knowhow in both countries. We are taking housing construction in Russia to a new era and making sure that each project yields the best possible return for our customers’ investments.

On the train to St. Petersburg, 13 July 2011

Jukka Tikkanen
Arkkitehtisuunnittelu Jukka Tikkanen Oy (Ltd.)