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One year as Olla

A year ago, Parviainen Architects became Olla Architecture. The process was a group effort that involved the entire office: all the elements of the new identity, from the name to the logo, were created by Olla members.

The emblem of a creative and courageous community

The background of the name change was a process that lasted several years, during which the office’s work was systematically developed one step at a time. By the year 2022, as the office prepared to celebrate its 60th anniversary, Parviainen Architects had grown into a multidisciplinary creative community, including not only architects but also experts from other design fields. The new name was intended to be an external expression of the internal change.

As the name is the symbol of the entire community, it was important to brainstorm it together. The concrete starting point for the change process was a name competition held in the spring of 2022. The humorous competition concept was similar to Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu (New Music Competition) that is held annually to choose the Finnish representative for Eurovisions.

The contest gathered name suggestions, and everybody got to vote for their favorite. The innovative minds of the office could once again be trusted: during the competition, creative professionals developed a total of 136 name ideas. The names were moderated by the jury, a dedicated team responsible for the renewal process, which examined the functionality and availability of the alternatives and generated further ideas based on given suggestions.

The final vote of the competition included suggestions from both the open competition and the jury. Out of the ten finalists, “Olla” emerged as a clear winner.

In second place in the name competition was “Kuuskaks” (Six-two) referring to the founding year of the office, and in third place was “In/To,” appreciated for its multi-interpretability.

See a photo compilation of Olla's transformation process

In the characteristic style of the office, all stages of the transformation process were seasoned with humor: The New Name Competition mimicked the New Music Competition, which selects Finland's Eurovision representative.

Quality, jokes, and quality jokes

At the final of the name competition, prizes were awarded not only for good suggestions but also for good puns and good attempts.

We are Olla

The final name and the reserved domain for it were revealed at the office's 60th-anniversary celebration in May 2022.

The emptier the bottle, the more popular the sketch

In the office workshop, participants could express support for logo options by pouring a shot (non-alcoholic or alcoholic) of limoncolla.

The many meanings of Olla

In 1962, when our office was founded, the naming rules for architectural firms were strict. To become a member of SAFA (Finnish Association of Architects), the office’s name had to consist of the founder’s or founders’ names. This tradition still echoes in the nomenclature of Finnish architectural firms in the 2020s, emphasizing surnames and their derivatives.

Olla means “to be” in Finnish. As a word, it is both fundamental and full of opportunities. Even though “Olla” clearly deviates from the canon of architectural firm names, it immediately felt right; versatile and thought-provoking in a good way. What all can we be?

Like architecture, the word “olla” (to be) is something universally used, touching everyone. The name doesn’t play tricks or embellish but provides a point of contact for both architecture experts and the public. Despite its many meanings, “Olla” quickly transforms in the mind into an independent word.

Additionally, it was a great bonus that the link to the original name was not completely cut: “Olla” is also a tribute to our office’s founder, Olli Parviainen, who turned 90 last year.

Confident, sharp, empathetic, insightful

After choosing the name ‘Olla,’ layers began to form around its core. The new identity was developed in joint workshops throughout the entire office, delving into Olla’s messages and essence. Steering the development project were Olla’s service designer, Virve Penttilä, and graphic designer, Terhi Isokuortti.

The key words for the identity became confident, sharp, empathetic, and insightful. As a word, “Olla” embodied all of this, and the new logo was hoped to visually encapsulate these qualities.

In the office workshops, logo variations were evaluated, and in addition to the presented options, new versions were brainstormed. Abstract alternatives garnered the most popularity – those where Olla’s name wasn’t directly readable.

While abstraction was appealing, the simplicity of the letter ‘O’ posed a challenge. The straightforward circular shape repeatedly brought the design team back to the starting point. Many initially promising drafts eventually seemed either forced or too conventional.

But eventually, there it was: the right one. A strong, simple symbol that immediately felt, and looked, like Olla.

The visual language of the logo, formed by the dot and the circle, originates from the shapes of the letters in Olla. At the same time, it is intentionally symbolic, almost stamp-like. Since ‘Olla’ is a commonly used word, it felt fitting to counterbalance it with a visually strong icon.

The logo anchors Olla to the starting point of the coordinate system; the origin. At the same time, it propels the mind towards the new: the direction of the symbol is upward, forward, towards growth. Simultaneously, the logo signifies seamless collaboration. There are no corners in the design to retreat to or to separate. The circular shape brings everything together into the same circle.

Olla was introduced to the world in January 2023. The name reveal party reflected Olla’s attitude: it brought together around two hundred friends, collaborators, and colleagues passionate about the possibilities of creativity.

With the launch celebrations, the work done within the office’s walls became visible and open to commentary. The clearest elements of the change, the name and logo, aroused the reactions they aimed for. However, in reality, they were just the easily noticeable peak of the entire undertaking. Over the course of more than a year, Olla’s goals and values were crystallized, the company’s story was articulated, a comprehensive new visual identity was designed, presentation methods for references and expertise were thoroughly developed, and a new website created.

See a photo compilation from Olla's launch party

Olla's era began on January 27, 2023. About 200 guests gathered to celebrate the new name and the new season it initiated.

It all depends on the perspective

On the back wall of the party room, excerpts from the Finnish Building Act were printed on massive posters. Guests had the chance to transform the dense legal text into blackout poetry by striking through parts of the text. The collective word art piece was finalized and presented by the Finnish hip hop musician Paleface.

It all depends on the perspective

On the back wall of the party room, excerpts from the Finnish Building Act were printed on massive posters. Guests had the chance to transform the dense legal text into blackout poetry by striking through parts of the text. The collective word art piece was finalized and presented by the Finnish hip hop musician Paleface.

Boundary crossers

Olla wants to push the boundaries of conventional architecture. The artist Ida Elina does the same: she challenges the norms by combining traditional Finnish kantele to modern pop music.

The people of Olla

Every skilled individual at Olla was involved in the transformation process that led to the new name and identity. In the foreground of the picture is Olli Parviainen, who founded the office in 1962.

A collective portrait of the 60-year-old office

In the office’s renewal project, the design team had a unique role compared to client work. It involved creating a collective self-portrait and telling a shared story. Designing for their own community meant carrying both the client’s and the designer’s perspectives.

From the beginning, the renewing work acknowledged the 60-year history of the office. While Olla Architecture continues the legacy of Parviainen Architects, the name and identity change undeniably turned a new page in the company’s history.

It’s intriguing to think about the story that began in January 2023. What projects, people, phases, and accomplishments will it include?

What ever can Olla be?

Olla’s experts share their thoughts on what architecture at its best can be. The video is in Finnish.