Hannu Elias Penttilä (1961-2009)

Hannu was born in 1961, in Karjala TL, Finland. From the early 1980s through to the early 1990s he combined, and overlapped being a young designer in architectural offices in Helsinki, acting as a CAAD-lecturer at Helsinki University of Technology HUT, Department of Architecture, and working as a researcher Technical Research Centre of Finland VTT. He retained a lifelong connection with the department of Architecture at HUT.

Between 1993 and 1998, whilst working as a CAAD-lecturer he co-founded the Architecture Media Laboratory AML at Tampere University of Technology TUT, Department of Architecture together with Arto Kiviniemi and Petri Siitonen setting up course and studio work and transmit his professional experience to students. At the start of that period, in 1993 he started his own company, Mittaviiva Oy, together with Anssi Koskenvesa. In 1996 he won the UICB’s (International Union of Building Centres) knowledge publication prize together with Arto Kiviniemi.
He reconnected with Helsinki University of Technology HUT, Department of Architecture in 1998 and until 2003 was coordinator of CAAD-education there. It was during this period that we persuaded Hannu to take on the significant task of organizer of the eCAADe 2001 conference “Architectural Information Management” at Helsinki University of Technology HUT, Department of Architecture, Espoo. That was a conference that is remembered fondly by all those who attended. It was the only conference that I know of that opened with a combination of sauna and jumping into the ice-covered sea. It was a really well-organised and informative conference. Consequently, we’re not going to let Hannu get away – he was too good. We appointed Hannu to the Council of eCAADe in 2001.

Hannu began a licentiate of technology degree on Architectural Education and Information Technology – the Educational Meaning of Digital Media, but in 2005 he redirected those studies towards a doctoral thesis on Architectural Information Management in Early Architectural Design Phases. In addition, Hannu had been a member of Finnish Building Information Foundation’s ProIT professional board (PT 27) since 2005.

What all this shows is that Hannu was a doer and a thinker. Teaching was in his blood, he was a genuine team-player and was selfless; he was happy to see other to succeed.
Also his service to the wider community should be highlighted. At the time, where platforms for conference abstract submissions weren’t developed so well – Hannu made his virtuosic work with Filemaker available as an on-line open source donation to ecaade. It gave us an on-line review system that was wonderful and easy to use; and it worked all the time.

One of his very first papers given at eCAADe in 1989, titled “Computer Aided Building Modeling“, says:

“The subject of computer-aided building modeling is often discussed in various contexts, sometimes without clear explanation of what is modelled. Usually modeling refers to 3-dimensional geometric modeling, but nowadays also conceptual modeling and mathematical simulation aspects are more and more evident. Building modeling should though be considered more widely than just plain geometric visualization. This paper establishes one common framework for discussion about different building modeling viewpoints arranging discipline viewpoints, approach methods, existing standards and application tools within one context. Although several viewpoints are declared, conceptual building modeling is regarded the main emphasis of this paper, since it definitely will be one of the key issues in developing methods and tools for computer integrated construction (CIC) in the future.”

… how true this reads in hindsight.

So in Helsinki on 3rd June 2009, the age of 48, Hannu lost his all too short battle with cancer. In one of his last emails sent on 25th May he said:

“Hello Branko & Andy…

…Rather than building science or buildings, I will start building a fierce fighting mood against this evil enemy : )

yours Hannu

PS sorry to bother you with this pain & sorrow, but I take this open informing also as a kind of mental theraphy ; )”

It was typical of Hannu that even when presented with such a situation he remained optimistic, positive and thoughtful about the feelings of others. He will be missed by many more people than he realised. Already we have received many messages of condolence from every part of the world. We have lost a dear friend and a presence that brought us joy and light. Our thoughts are with his family and especially his wife Iiris and his two children. This is an article for IJAC that neither of us wanted to write.

André Brown and Bob Martens

Some tributes…

I first met Hannu when we spent a number of days at conference in Aarhus in 1988. I remember long breaks with him wandering the town and learning about differences from him about variations in tone with respect to Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish speech which he rendered. We continued the following week in Finland at VTT and he took the time to show me Aalto’s work at Otaniemi Technical University, a very memorable experience. It was the beginning of long acquaintance, sometimes academic and at least as often social, light-hearted, philosophical.

Hannu was a remarkable and engaging person This is a shocking and very sad loss.

Earl Mark

Dear ecaade friends

We feel deeply sad to hear about Hannu and want to share our sorrow with you and Hannu’s wife Iiris, who we met when they visited us in Copenhagen when planning the ecaade conference.

We will miss Hannu’s deep, warm, social and professional commitment that we met at the many ecaade conferences – and especially will remember from the conference in Helsinki.

We give our deepest condolences to Hannu’s family.

Bruno, Henning and Bjarne
Bruno Tournay
Henning Orbak
Bjarne Rüdiger
Architect School in Copenhagen


I would like to express my sympathy after such big loss.

With all my regards.
Joanna Nowakowska Klimowicz


Dear eCAADe community,

I am very sad to hear about Hannu. It is very sad that someone who contributed so much to the community has passed away so young and so suddenly. My sincere condolences.

Nancy Cheng
ACADIA President-elect


Dear eCAADE members,

I will also always remember our nightly walk through Antwerp’s harbour last year. Our little group had a lot of fun. Hannu was such a kind, great and lovely man.

I am deeply sad.

Condolences to his family and the ones close to him.


Dear eCAADe members,

Like you, I am very shocked with this information. I will remember him as the great professional and human being who was always available to help anyone of us. My deepest condolences to his family, colleagues and the eCAADe community.

Cristina Caramelo Gomes
Departamento de. Arquitectura e Artes
Universidade Lusíada de Lisboa


Dear eCAADe members,

A great loss!
My heartfelt condolences to his family and all eCAADe community.
Giuseppe Pellitteri


Dear eCAADe members,

Like you I remember Hannu with his humaneness And ironic and deep sense of life. Just yesterday 2001, all We walked around the nightly harbour of Helsinki. Unforgettable park windy and frozen Lit by his bright smile…

Condolences to his family, relatives and HUT colleagues,


Dear friends,

A cruel event that generates in me a confused feeling. I liked to meet Hannu and to listen to him during the eCAADe conferences. I appreciated his humour and his analyses.

We will miss him.

Sincere condolences to his family and all his friends and colleagues.
Gilles Halin


Dear eCAADe freinds

Hannu first came to Aarhus School of Architecture in the late 1980’th travelling to study IT in Architecture, and he chaired at the eCAADe conference in Aarhus 1989.

Since then I always looked forward to meet Hannu as a skilled and joyful colleague and friend.

It made me really sad to learn that Hannu will not be with us any longer. We will miss him.

My deepest condolences to his family, colleagues and the eCAADe community.
Kristian Agger Arkitektskolen Aarhus


Dear eCAADe members,

I am very shocked to hear this news…. I would like to express my deepest sympathy to his family, friends and colleagues.

Sandra Marques
École Nationale Superieure d’Architecture
de Toulouse (ENSA Toulouse)


Dear eCAADe-members,

Hannu was my predecessor as a teacher of ArchiCAD and several basic information technology skills for students of architecture in Tampere University of Technology, Department of Architecture. He was also an eager and untiring developer of our Architectural Media Laboratory and always a good-humoured friend. I was upset and very sad hearing about his serious illness and then, after only one week, his death. Hannu really was a person with a big heart and an excellent social fellow and had therefore friends across the world. I believe we, his friends, have much to learn about his personality, character and positive attitude to life.

On behalf of the staff of Architectural Media Laboratory our deepest condolences to Hannu’s family and the eCAADe community.

Martti Lamppu
Senior Lecturer, M. Arch. SAFA


To eCAADe-members,

I only met Hannu at the last eCAADe conference in Antwerp, but enjoyed talking to him and hearing his thoughts on eCAADe and life in general. I am very saddened and shocked to hear this news. My thoughts are with his family.

Robert Mantho


To Hannu’s wife and children and to all friends and colleagues I would like to express the deepest sympathy. It’s very sad to loose an active friend and colleague, young with a promising.future.

My deepest condolences.

Francisco Agostinho,
Faculty of Architecture TU Lisbon


Dear eCAADe Friends:

We are very sad to learn about the passing away of Hannu. We will always remember him as the joyful colleague and friend who introduced us to the culture of FINNISH SAUNA in eCAADe’01. His love for life was evident and contagious.

Our deepest sympathy to his family and friends.
We will miss him dearly.
Guillermo & Antonieta

Antonieta Angulo
Associate Professor of Practice
Ball State University


Dear friends,

I´m really shocked with this sad news.
Actually it seems unbelievable to me…
Please send my deepest condolences to Hannu´s family,
Eduardo S. Nardelli


A very bad news, a great loss!

Our deepest condolences to his family and the eCAADe community.
Gianfranco Carrara and his fellows
of the department of Architecture and Urban Planning
Sapienza University of Roma

My deep sorrow & condolences to Hanuu’s family and friends
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ahmad Rafi
Faculty of Creative Multimedia &
Director of R&D Collaborations
Multimedia University, Cyberjaya
63100 Selangor, MALAYSIA


just to join all colleagues, very very sad news indeed 🙁
wasn’t even aware he’s ill.
Bob you probably remember not too long ago
we were joking in facebook on his photos swimming in ice.
Only last week was showing them to my 8yr old laughing about these crazy Fins.

Will be missed immensely, RIP


It is really sad hearing this news about Hanuu. On behalf of ASCAAD members, we convey our deep sorrow and sincere condolences to his family and all his friends and colleagues.

Rabee M. Reffat
Associate Professor of Architecture and Design Computing
Architecture Department, KFUPM, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia


dear friends,

bobs message about hannu left me speechless – it’s just so incredibly sad !
he was a very special person and had his way with people – he stayed at my house last year on a trip from maribor to karlsruhe and instantly won my girls over – i just remember that he read them their favourite children books in a Finnish hannu version when they went to bed
we will really miss him and we lost a friend not only a collegue
so kippiss to hannu – you and your family did not deserve that we will always remember you


I am saddened and shocked to hear about Hannu’s passing away at such young age. On behalf of the ACADIA community, our deepest condolences to his family and the eCAADe community. I am sure Hannu will live on in the memories of our members who have had the privilege of interacting with Hannu over the years.
Mahesh Senagala, LEED AP
Chair and Irving Distinguished Professor
Department of Architecture, College of Architecture and Planning
Emerging Media Fellow, Ball State University


Dear council members,

This news makes me very sad. I remember that Hannu’s conference was my first real eCAADe conference. The way Hannu organized it and the open and friendly atmosphere I encountered there left such an impact on me that eCAADe became for me more than a scientific interest but a group of friends who can share more than there achievements. I hereby would like to join the condolences that the council will bring to Hannu’s wife and children.


SIGraDi’s members join eCAADe colleagues and feel very sorry to know that Hannu passed away. Our members who had the opportunity to meet him will keep memories of good moments we could share.

Our deepest condolences to Hannu’s family as they go through this difficult time.
Jose Kos