In English

As an art historian I’m most deeply interested in ordinary, everyday 20th century phenomena. Why do places, squares, streets. blocks of houses and single houses look just the way they look? Monuments and works by master architects are better known because of long research traditions and many books. Therefore they are not threatend by all new ideas of urban planning in the same way as anonymous environments.

Urban planning became my field of study already in the 1960s when Finnish 1920s architecture became the topic of my master’s thesis. That period of strong urbanization planned and built uniform, harmonious townscapes, in Helsinki best represented by Etu-Töölö and the Vallila. Nordic classicism which then ruled the taste had by the 1960s become most unfashionable and was therefore being demolished to give place for modernistic buildings. This process activated my interest and writing in the problems of building conservation and the values behind it.

In my latest book I describe and analyze the history of Finnish rowhouse during the period 1900-1960. The history of this humble dwelling house type also opens the ideas of townplanning and social housing of the period.

Riitta Nikula

+358 50 374 3171
Professor emerita
Department of Art History

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Riitta Nikula cv (short)

Doctor of Philosophy, degree by University of Helsinki 1981

Work history

University of Helsinki, Professor of Art History 1994-2007 (Head of the Department of Art History 1994-2003Head of the Institute of Art Research 2001-2003)

Museum of Finnish Architecture, Head of Research 1988-1994 (and Deputy director 1989-1994)

Academy of Finland, Junior Research Fellow 1982-85, 1986-88

University of Helsinki, acting Associate Professor 1985-1986

University of Helsinki, Junior Assistant Professor 1976-1981

University of Helsinki, Curator 1970-1976


Published continuously both scholarly and popular books and articles on different fields of Finnish architectural and art history and urbanism.

Main works

”Yhtenäinen kaupunkikuva 1900-1930. Suomalaisen kaupunkirakentamisen ihanteista ja päämääristä, esimerkkeinä Helsingin Etu-Töölö ja Uusi Vallila” (Harmonious Townscape 1900-1930. On the ideals and aims of urban construction in Finland. Etu-Töölö and Uusi Vallila of Helsinki as examples. Dissertation) Societas Scientiarum Fennica 1981.

”Armas Lindgren 1874-1929. Arkkitehti. Architect”. Museum of Finnish Architecture 1988.

”Erik Bryggman 1891-1955. Arkkitehti. Arkitekt. Architect”. Museum of Finnish Architecture 1991 (editor and one of the authors)

”Architecture and Landscape. The Building of Finland”. Otava, Helsinki 1993.

(published also in Finnish, French , German, Italian, and Spanish)

”Sankaruus ja arki. Suomen 50-luvun miljöö. Heroism and the everyday. Building Finland in the 1950s.” Museum of Finnish Architecture. Helsinki 1994. (editor and author of the article ” Housing policy and the urban environment – programme and reality”)

”Bertel Jung: The Pioneer of Modern Town Planning in Helsinki”. Icon to Cartoon. A Tribute to Sixten Ringbom. Studies in Art History 16. Helsinki 1995

”The City in the writings of Alvar Aalto. Die Stadt in Schriften von Alvar Aalto”. Alvar Aalto in seven buildings. Museum of Finnish Architecture 1998.

”The Inter-War Period: the Architecture of the Young Republic.” 20th-Century Architecture, Finland. Ed. Marja-Riitta Norri, Elina Standertskjöld, Wilfried Wang. Museum of Finnish Architecture and Prestel Verlag 2000.

”Bauen für die Staatskirche. Kirchenarchtektur in Finnland 1950-2000.” In Europäischer Kirchenbau 1950-2000. Herausgegeben von Wolfgang Jean Stock. Prestel 2002.

”Tapiola – Housing Policy, Architecture, and the Everyday.” In Tapiola – Life and Architecture. Ed. Timo Tuomi. Rakennustieto 2003.

”Focus on Finnish 20th century architecture and town planning.” Collected papers by Riitta Nikula. Helsinki University Press 2006.

”In search of national heritage and European styles. The case of Armas Lindgren (1874-1929).” in Quo Vadis Architectura. Nils Erik Wickberg Lectures 2009/2010. Ed. Tom Simons. Aalto University Publications Series Art+Design+Architecture 3/2012, 250-272.

Book review in Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 74.3 / September 2015, 368-370: Stanford Anderson, Gail Fenske, and David Fixler, eds. Aalto and America. Yale University Press 2012.

”From crofts to suburbs – the epic journey of Finnish residential construction. The Building of Finland.” Editor Harri Hautajärvi. Rakennustieto Publishing 2017, 24-59.