Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen is a scholar and an architect with a deep knowledge of modern and contemporary architecture. Her scholarly work has focused on some of the biggest names associated with Columbus architecture: Eero Saarinen and Kevin Roche. Pelkonen is participating in the Modern Art & Life session of Foundations and Futures chaired by Michelangelo Sabatino.
Pelkonen has taught as an associate professor in the Yale School of Architecture since 1994. She earned a master of architecture degree from Tampere University of Technology in Finland, a master of environmental design from Yale University, and a Ph.D from Columbia University. Pelkonen has authored and contributed to award-winning books on modern and contemporary architecture. She co-edited Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future (Yale, 2006), which received the Philip Johnson Award for best exhibition catalogue of the year, as well as the Sir Banister Fletcher Award given to the year’s best book on art or architecture. Her 2009 monograph Alvar Aalto: Architecture, Modernity and Geopolitics won the Alice Davis Hitchcock Award from the Society of Architectural Historians. Her articles and essays have been featured in many publications including Daidalos, Log, and Perspecta. Pelkonen is also a practicing architect, currently as a design associate with Turner Brooks Architects. She has worked at notable European firms including Reima and Raili Pietilä in Helsinki, Finland, and Volker Giencke in Graz, Austria.
Pelkonen’s talk for the Modern Art & Life session is titled “Kevin Roche: Buildings for Life and Work.” Pelkonen has conducted extensive research on Kevin Roche which culminated in her 2011 book and exhibition at Yale University, both titled Kevin Roche: Architecture as Environment. Roche’s high-profile career took off through his work with Eero Saarinen – another architect associated with Columbus – on projects like the TWA Terminal at JFK International airport. After Saarinen’s death in 1961, Roche helped complete many of his unfinished projects, including North Christian Church in Columbus. Pelkonen explains, “I talk about architecture as environment because Kevin looked at a building in a context bigger than the immediate environment; he looked at regions; he looked at infrastructure; he looked at landscape.” She adds, “I think this idea of considering the bigger context of buildings resonates very well with contemporary issues in architecture.”
Pelkonen comes to Columbus to speak about Kevin Roche, but her scholarly work has made her deeply knowledgeable about the architects and architectural movements that have influenced Columbus. “I think that Columbus is a good example of how architecture, existence and culture become one,” said Pelkonen. “There is a false dichotomy among architects and academics between architecture and culture at large.” Columbus shows the intertwined nature of architecture, design, and culture that shapes a city, its identity, and everyday life.