Kaleva Church

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Photo: Simo Rista / MFA
  • PlaceTampere
  • Completion 1966
  • Decade1960s
  • PeriodThe rise of the welfare state
  • Year of selection1993


Kaleva Church is based on the winning entry by Reima Pietilä and Raili Paatelainen in an architectural competition held in 1959-1960. They were awarded the commission in 1962 and the church was consecrated in 1966. The floor plan of the church has the shape of an irregular rhombus. A bell tower in the form of an abstract cross rises up from the flat roof of the church. The walls of the organically-shaped church comprise of convex and concave concrete slabs of even height. These slabs are separated from each other by narrow full-height wooden-framed windows with thermal glazing. In addition to the large main space of the church, the building also includes a chapel, sacristy and auxiliary facilities that follow the same geometric principle as the main church space. The ground floor comprises various sized meeting and auxiliary spaces. The church furniture, organ and altar are made of a strongly sculptural lacquered pine. The building is characterized by a powerful will to form, from the door handles to the overall shape. The few carefully selected materials create a strong sense of a total work of art.

The building project received a lot of international attention already before it was built. Due to its organic and irregular form, the pioneering church is among the key works of post-war Finnish modernism. The fair-faced, slip-cast concrete was at that time a novelty in Finnish public buildings. The idea in the competition proposal of the fair-faced external envelope and the interior decorated with ceramic tiles was turned inside out during the construction stage. The church is placed freely in the middle of a modern residential area in accordance with the principles of the new monumentalism of the 1950s. The Kaleva Church takes on a significant role in its surroundings.

The original architecture in the main spaces of the building has been well preserved. The interior materials have aged beautifully. Alterations to the auxiliary facilities have not really diminished the building’s architectural quality. The building was protected by the Church Act in 2006.


Olli-Paavo Koponen

Johansson, Eriika; Paatero Kristiina & Tuomi, Timo (toim.) (2008). Raili ja Reima Pietilä. Modernin arkkitehtuurin haastajat. Helsinki: Suomen rakennustaiteen museo.
Mukala, Jorma (1999). Metso Voima Tuulensuu. Tampereen arkkitehtuuria. Tampere: Tampere-seura ry.
Pietilä, Reima & Paatelainen, Raili (1966). ”Kalevan kirkko”, Arkkitehti 11-12/1966.
Quantrill, Malcolm (1987). Reima Pietilä: Architecture, Context and Modernism, Helsinki: Otava.
Tallqvist, Tore (2007). “The Timeless Values of the Kaleva Church”. Niskanen, Aino et al. (toim./ed.), Hikes into Pietilä Terrain. Helsinki: Rakennustaiteen seura & Taidehistorian seura.

Projects by same architect

Raili Paatelainen (later Pietilä)