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Olli behind Olla

The company was founded 60 years ago on ambition and understanding of good team spirit.

Olla’s story started in 1962 when Olli Parviainen, 29 at the time, founded Arkkitehtuuritoimisto Olli Parviainen (Olli Parviainen Architecture Firm). In the 1960s, the name of the company did not require much brainstorming: regulations were strict, and only architecture agencies containing the architect’s name were allowed.

The firm managed by the young architect quickly grew and thrived. Its first large-scale project was the Karjalan Pukutehdas clothing factory and its offices in Jyväskylä, Finland. The building is still in place and currently serves as a hotel.

Olli Parviainen had a taste of international design projects even before he founded his own company. A year before founding an office bearing his name, he was involved in a team of three young architects who won the competition for a Nordic detailed plan for a suburban district in Reykjavik. The office of Parviainen, who was enthusiastic about languages and international business, was soon working with international clients: The head office of Nordiskafilt, designed in Halmstad, Sweden, was the first open-plan office building in the Nordics. For the Soviet Union, the Olli Parviainen Architecture Firm designed dozens of hospitals and hotels in the 1970s and 80s. As a member of the Tapiola Consultants consortium, the company also took part in design projects in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

The Nordiskafilt headquarters in Halmstad, Sweden, was the first open plan office building in the Nordic countries. At the time of its completion in the 1960’s the modern office building got a lot of media attention also in Finland. Photo: Olli Parviainen’s home album
International negotiations: The designs for Hotel Pulkovskaya, which is still operating in St Petersburg, were studied at the office in 1982 by the customer’s representative Professor Sergey Speransky and the project team. Photo: Olli Parviainen’s home album

International expansion was boosted by excellent relationships with Finnish construction firms. The preparedness to operate abroad kept the agency going even when times were difficult in Finland: When the economic depression of the 1990s started, construction in Finland came to a sudden halt. A few long-term projects kept the firm afloat even amid a wave of bankruptcies around it. New work was sought from international clients, located in the newly-independent Kazakhstan and Ukraine, for example. 

Olli Parviainen has always valued maintaining a good atmosphere both externally and internally. “Keeping up team spirit among the company employees, doing things together and continuous education were essential. We went on tours and study trips as a group, even bringing our families to our Christmas and summer parties. Together with my wife Hanna, we invited customers to our homes to enjoy cosy dinners,” Parviainen, 89, reminisces.

Staff of Olli Parviainen Architecture Firm in a sunny Tapiola in 1983. “Our work was always teamwork. The same employees stayed for a long time. During the years of rapid growth, the firm was able to attract good people: our team also included foreign professionals who brought new insight and a fresh touch to our multi-cultural community.” Photo: Olli Parviainen’s home album

”Keeping up with the times and looking after people have always been the key values of our company. These values never get old – and holding on to them ensures your success in the future.”

– Olli Parviainen

In 2023, the world is very different than it was six decades ago. The ways of working have undergone massive changes. Digital tools have replaced the traditional drawing boards, T-squares and felt-tip pens. Where buildings used to be illustrated with miniature models, the design process is now supported by information modelling and open design interfaces. However, the heart of an architect’s work has not changed over the years. It’s still all about finding solutions. At Olla, the best solutions for people and the environment are created by not only architects, but also professionals in interior architecture, service design, information modelling, graphic design and visualisation.

Olli Parviainen is sitting on the terrace of the Riskilä fishing cottage he designed for President Urho Kekkonen in the Iniö archipelago. ”I have built my life through architecture. This has brought me many interesting relationships both in Finland and internationally. Inspirational trips to architectural sites around the world, together with colleagues, gave me much. I’ve visited a hundred countries in total. Art in general is the spice of life for me.” Photo: Olli Parviainen’s home album