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Professor Fernando Nieto builds bridges within architecture to achieve the green transition

Published on 15.2.2023
Tampere University
Mies istuu satulatuolilla punaseinäisessä huoneessa.The workplace will soon become more familiar to the entire family of Fernando Nieto. After eight years in Helsinki, the family now faces moving to Tampere. Photo: Jonne Renvall / Tampereen yliopisto
Recent research is looking for collaborative digital solutions to promote green transition in architectural and urban design practices. Fernando Nieto, a professor of Architecture at Tampere University, and his team have the role of a bridge builder in the research. One of their objectives is to bring together the expertise of architects working in architectural offices and consulting companies and those working in academia.

Fernando Nieto leads the SPREAD research group at Tampere University. The group participates in the research project Visualising Our Future Public Realm Together (VOF) which started at the beginning of 2023. The two-year project is coordinated by Aalto University. The research helps Finnish architectural companies to implement the green transition by increasing commonality and seizing the opportunities brought by digitalization and service design applied to architecture.

“Our main goal is to create a multiscale digital tool that enhances the design process by incorporating different stakeholders. It will allow architectural offices to develop new business models and skills based on cultural, environmental, economic, and social sustainability,” Nieto explains.

Towards green transition with digital solutions

The research supports community-based green transition by facilitating sustainable digital solutions to allow architecture companies to compete sustainably in both global and local markets.

According to Nieto, the research bridges a gap between the academic world and the practice of architecture.

“We aim to incorporate architectural offices into the academic debate on the discipline and at the same time bring academics closer to the opportunities and challenges posed by the practice of architecture. We are linking together these two different ways to practice architecture,” he says.

In Finland, it is typical to continue to work at an architectural office after studying or to start a company of your own. Some architects choose an academic career for example as researchers, teachers, or professors.

How can architecture combine community and individuality?

In addition to Professor Nieto, postdoctoral research fellow Rosana Rubio and doctoral researcher Simon Kay-Jones participate in the research. The group investigates what living together while supporting individuality means in relation to architecture and the built environment.

The theoretical basis for this is their research on loneliness and the built environment, published as a book in 2021. The book was given a special mention in the COAM Awards 2022 by the Professional Association of Architects in Madrid.

The VOF project is funded by Business Finland within the Sustainable Growth Program for Finland, which receives funding from NextGenerationEU through the European Union's Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF).

Besides the SPREAD research group at Tampere University, the project partners are the Group X focus group at Aalto University, as well as the London-based People and Places Studio at the Royal College of Art and SmartViz, a company dealing with building performance and user experience. The Finnish architectural offices and engineering companies involved are MUUAN, ALA Architects, Lukkaroinen Architects, Parviainen Architects and Sitowise.

First international professor in architecture at Tampere University

During and after his master’s studies, Fernando Nieto practised architecture in Spain for over a decade. He worked independently and in collaboration with other architects in different association modes and collaborative practices.

In parallel to this practice, he obtained his PhD in Advanced Architectural Design from the Madrid School of Architecture (ETSAM) at the Technical University of Madrid (UPM) in 2014. During the last year of his doctorate, he was a visiting researcher at ETH Zurich’s Department of Architecture in Switzerland.

After his doctoral dissertation, he started as a postdoctoral researcher at Aalto University’s Department of Architecture for four years.

In 2018 he gained a tenure track position in the Faculty of Built Environment (BEN) at Tampere University. In June 2022, he was the first at the Tampere School of Architecture to complete the tenure track career path to becoming a full professor.

Research work to advance both theory and practice

According to Fernando Nieto, the new position as a professor gives him the confidence to face academic and societal challenges and offers as well new opportunities for the creation of interesting partnerships in both research and teaching.

“My career plans are the consolidation of my research group at Tampere University and the opening of new development paths in the combination of academic research with a design practice in architecture,” Nieto says.

Nieto plans to continue researching architectural design strategies and methods that seize the opportunities brought by a research-by-design approach. He is also interested in the unexplored paths of basic research in architecture.

Read more about the SPREAD research group.

Further information

Fernando Nieto
+358 50 447 8479
fernando.nieto [at]


Text: Anna Aatinen
Photo: Jonne Renvall