September 6, 2018

Meet Our New CEO

Samppa Lappalainen joined the JKMM Family 1st of September 2018. He is our new CEO and will be steering our 100-strong group of architects and designers towards new and exciting projects and adventures. Let’s get a cup of coffee and get to know Samppa a bit more. 

What is the most important aspect of leadership?

For me, being a leader is not about talking and giving orders, but listening, understanding and being present. A leader doesn´t have to master everything, but should rather recognize the talent and skills around them and trust each individual with responsibilities according to their talent. In my opinion a good leader accepts the flaws and mistakes both in themselves and in their crew as part of the process of developing. Everybody usually makes decisions with good intentions and with the best information available at the time, but a leader has to be humble enough to admit their mistakes.

This may not sound too original, but I truly value solution-driven “Hey let’s go do this” kind of attitude, diligent work ethics and honesty. I believe these values reflect well to colleagues and our clients in our day-to-day work.

What kind work community you’d like to build?

I’d love to be able to spark trust and encourage equality and mutual respect within JKMM. We need to support and cheer each other on. Here at JKMM, we have the privilege of working in a group of super talented professionals. However, our real strength is not working as individuals, but like the wolves, in the pack.

Team work is sensitive to social conflicts and distress. Therefore, I’d like to promote openness, so that everyone can speak openly about their problems, big or small, either to me or to their colleagues.

What would you like to transfer to your new co-workers?

I’d love to teach and promote “intrapreneurship” amongst all my co-workers, regardless of their role or position in the company. I’m quoting a successful IT company’s principle here – “before each decision, one should consider what are the consequences of that particular decision to our clients, co-workers, and to the key figures of the company at this very moment and in the future”.

If you ask yourself these questions before making a decision, the result will most likely be good.

What are the new challenges of the profession in your opinion?

Architects are often considered artists, alienated from reality, painting their visions without worrying about the boundaries set by the laws of nature, regulations or economics. Architects will have to face these suspicions bravely and prove them wrong without falling into cynicism or compromising the grand and noble architectural objectives they once had.

In addition, the rapidly changing climate and environmental issues obligate us to respond to these challenges in our solutions and decisions, and also even educate and enlighten our clients about the inevitable.

How will the scope of work change in the becoming 20 years?

The tsunami of digitalization continues to renew all industries at an exponential rate. Virtual studios and virtual construction will have become the new norm and user interfaces will have become flawless due to the ever-evolving computing capacity and ever faster internet connectivity. My guess is that people will meet less face-to-face, but hopefully workshops and studios still have the power as platforms to bring people physically together.

I hope that the technological innovations that make working more efficient could rather be utilized as tools providing us with additional time to focus on the design quality, drifting effortlessly in the creative flow, rather than driving us to ever tighter schedules and budgets.

What is the most valuable advice you´d like to share?

Show respect to everyone and value their work, irrespective of their role or occupation.

What is the next interesting architectural office we should follow?

I’ve had the privilege to work with many promising and fresh Finnish studios, such as Studio Puisto and OOPEAA, but I’m going to have to pick Futudesign. One of the partners and my childhood buddy Teemu introduced me the concept of “algorithmic architecture” – that was both crazy and interesting at the same time. Maybe that’s the next big thing!?

Could you imagine yourself in a completely different occupation?

I have worked in the building industry in various roles and at different ends of the table as a designer, consultant, developer, contractor and even as a carpenter, and executed projects of different scales and scope, but to be honest – the fields of construction, developing and design are the only ones I could possibly imagine being paid for doing something…

On the other hand, I have passion for culture, music and performance arts as well as environmental issues and enjoy being close to the sea whenever possible, so maybe one day I’ll find myself as a gondolier in Venice.

What advice would you give to a young architect?

This is of course a matter of personality, but I got a lot out of finding myself in sink or swim situations: I’d encourage young architects to be open to bigger challenges than they might think they are ready for. Just be curious and bold enough to step out of your comfort zone and work hard enough to make it pay off.

I’d remind young architects to respect each task they are given. Every single assignment can be executed in a poor, adequate or excellent manner within the given the boundaries. Only aiming for excellence makes one grow as a professional.

Be humble enough to ask for advice from the seasoned workers on the construction sites who are actually executing your fancy design, and don’t hesitate to seek the support and knowledge of the veteran designers at your office – like they have done in their youth.

Never miss an opportunity to give positive feedback and say thanks when deserved. It is important to acknowledge the needs and what incentivizes each stakeholder on a project. They are most likely different from yours but understanding them is key to the design process and diplomacy is often needed more than skills in design to bring a project to a successful conclusion.

Working as an entrepreneur is the fast track to an architect’s basic education. In 5 years, you will most likely get a pretty realistic idea on how to either please the clients, meet the schedules and budgets or fail sadly and be wiped off the yellow pages.

I personally prefer now working in a rather big company since it provides me with a greater variety of projects and challenges, cool colleagues and the support and knowledge I could only have dreamed of when struggling alone and of course the company benefits and maybe even a chance of retiring one day, but half joking I think being an entrepreneur should be made a mandatory part of an architect’s education.

What project would you have wanted to be part of?

I would have loved to have finalized the steering of the Allas Sea Pool concept, since it was a really promising startup project, but in general I feel I´ve been lucky to participate just in the right projects.

A place that inspires you?

I enjoy being at sea, on a boat in the archipelago. My average day is hectic and full of things reminding me of work that yet needs to be taken care of, so in my free time I prefer not to find inspiration but rather gravitate towards serenity and quietness.

A book, piece of art or a thing that inspires you?

I am moved by almost anything passionate, sincere, unconditional and uncompromised that comes from the heart. Someone having exceptional talent is a of course always delightful, but just witnessing one exceeding one’s own expectations might be more touching than enjoying unsurprising virtuosity.

I don’t care if these incidents take place in sports, cinema, music, architecture or literature – I love them if their nature is unique and grand.

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