Tempaus – harnessing community for advocacy work

This autumn, Aalto University Student Union will organise Tempaus after a break of several years. Kaikkien käsien jälki Tempaus (“A Collective Handprint”) takes place on the hundredth anniversary of the engineer with a sturdy beard, a mythical figure that supervises the actions of engineering students. In his article, Juuso Määttä delves into the history of Tempaus.
vanha kuva teekkareista reklaamikulkueessa kylttien kanssa
Screenshot from Polyteekkarifilmi, 1924 advertising procession

Students have always been at the forefront of developing Finnish society. A shared sense of duty and the feeling that the nation’s future is in our own hands encourages us to do all we can to advance society. Advocacy work also grows us as citizens and creates a closer connection to Finnish society.

Advocacy, social debate, spectacles and fundraising are activities that students have always carried out in Finland. Active citizenship is at the heart of the Finnish student movement. There are many types of advocacy work, most of which are continuous and go unnoticed by many. Sometimes, though, the opposite is the case...

Tempaus is a traditional form of student social advocacy. Tempaus is an event organised to raise awareness about a national issue or topic that is close to the hearts of students, the implementation of which emphasises the importance of team spirit. A successful Tempaus engages the entire community and attracts the attention of the Finnish people to an important topic with its impressive implementation.

Early history of Tempaus

Tempaus has been part of the engineering student culture from the very beginning. According to the Academic Engineers and Architects in Finland (TEK) and the Student Union of the Helsinki University of Technology (TKY), the first Tempaus was organised as early as 1878, just six years after the founding of a Swedish-speaking student nation, Teknologföreningen. At the time, a banquet was organised in aid of a statue fund for the late national poet J.L. Runeberg.

Historian Jari Hanski dates the first Tempaus back to 1882, when engineering students organised a carnival procession and an evening gala at the Student House on Shrove Tuesday, raising money for the Teknologföreningen construction fund. Hanski describes this first advertising procession as follows: “It was the largest and most beautiful procession yet seen in the country: advertisements, caricatures of well-known people of the time, clowns, mounted police officers, etc.”

In the late 1800s, funds were collected for the same construction fund with several Tempaus events. The work bore fruit in 1903, when engineering students were able to build their own student union building at Antinkatu 29 (now Lönnrotinkatu). Today, the building is known as Vanha Poli (“Old Poly”).

The first Tempaus in its modern format was organised in 1924 for the good of the Finnish Olympic team, as ordered by the engineer with a sturdy beard. At the time, engineering students wanted to make sure that the newly independent young nation could represent itself at the Olympic Games in Paris. At the Olympics, Finland eventually won a total of 37 medals, which was the second-highest amount after the United States. 

At the heart of the event, which was organised exactly one hundred years ago, was a large advertising procession that took place on Shrove Tuesday and generated most of the revenue. The proceeds from the advertising procession and the following ball were as much as 400,000 Finnish marks. 

Of course, a simple procession was not enough for engineering students. The Tempaus event also included the Polyteekkarifilmi film, which told the story of how the Tempaus event was organised. In addition to engineering students, the film also featured Finnish running legend Paavo Nurmi. A full-scale film in the very young film industry proved too demanding for the engineering students, and the film generated huge losses. The situation was salvaged by Suomi-Filmi, which bought the rights to the film from TKY. The film can still be viewed online via the Finna material service.

The engineer with a sturdy beard came into the picture in 1924 to make sure that Tempaus runs smoothly. With his Tempaus order, he ordered all engineering students to participate in the Tempaus event. Since then, the engineer with a sturdy beard has been the official organiser of all TKY’s major Tempaus events. He has typically put together a Tempaus committee that takes care of the practical arrangements so that he can focus on the bigger picture himself. 

The engineer with a sturdy beard is a mythical figure that has only been seen once. AYY’s Museum of Student Life has a bust of him, which was sculpted “based on an audio track”. To this day, the engineer with a sturdy beard represents the involvement of engineering students in AYY’s Tempaus events.

The most significant outcome of Tempaus events is Teekkari Village in Otaniemi. Several fundraising events were organised for the Teekkari Village project. At the time, the efforts were also known as a “continuous Tempaus”. For the purpose of raising funds for the village, a student union support association, Teekkaritoiminnan edistämisyhdistys (TTEY), was founded. The association sold imported nylon socks, tobacco, oranges, rice, coffee and cars. 

The Tempaus event of 1949 captured the whole nation’s attention with a memorable phrase that exudes the spirit of engineering students: “Otaniemi on – Teekkarikylä tehdään” (“We have Otaniemi, let’s build Teekkari Village”). The Tempaus itself included a traditional advertising procession and two Tempaus celebrations. In addition, the event included numerous cultural performances. The Polytech Orchestra, the Polytech Choir and the Retuperä Voluntary Fire Brigade Band organised concerts for the benefit of Teekkari Village.

The building of Teekkari Village required a lot of work and the help of the entire community over the span of several years and generations of students. The result was a unique cultural site, and to this day, Teekkari Village is still the only complete residential area built by students themselves.

vanha kuva opiskelijoista reklaamikulkueessa
Screenshot from Polyteekkarifilmi, 1924 advertising procession

Advocacy work is popular among students

Engineering students are not the only group of students known for their fundraising and advocacy work. In fact, these activities are highly popular among all university student groups. Engineering students just happened to organise their own activities around the Tempaus term. Aalto University’s arts, design and architecture students, as well as business students in particular, have also organised many similar spectacles. 

Various fundraising measures were organised over the course of several years to finance the construction of the KY house. Already in 1925, around 30 of KY’s representatives raised funds throughout Finland. At the turn of the decade, KY organised a large lottery, which was so successful that the decision was made to purchase a plot of land for the KY house the very same year. 

However, the student union’s financial situation was weak in the 30s, and the plot had to be sold to the city with significant losses. By the end of the decade, the union’s finances had improved. The deed of sale for a new plot was signed on 19 May 1939, and construction work began in the same week. The KY house was completed during the war in 1942. 

In 1968, KY organised the Finnfocus fair in London. The purpose of the event was to promote the Finnish export industry. A ship filled with Finnish export goods sailed to the port of London. The fair, which was organised to showcase Finnish products, took place onboard the ship over the course of several days. The Finnfocus fair was organised by 150 business students and attracted 150 Finnish exhibitors.

TOKYO has organised several bricklaying events through which it has taken a stand on the location of the University of Art and Design Helsinki. In the 1970s, the university was planned to be moved to Pasila, but the project suffered a setback. The Finnish Government was even considering moving the university to Tampere or Lahti. The university and TOKYO organised many events to promote the Pasilatalo (“Pasila House”) project. When it was confirmed that the move to Pasila would not materialise, TOKYO organised a symbolic bricklaying event in 1983, in which the foundation stone of Pasilatalo was laid on the plot where the university building was originally intended to be built. A small victory was won when it was decided that the University of Art and Design would remain in Helsinki with a new location in Arabianranta in 1986.

A similar event was organised in 2011 with students and staff laying a foundation stone in Töölönlahti as part of TOKYO’s efforts to move the university there instead of Otaniemi.

KY:n Finnfocus 1968 -näyttely
KY's Finnfocus 1968 -exhibition

Tempaus events at Aalto University

Two Tempaus events have been organised in the Aalto community. The first of them was the Mahtavaa, Ihanaa, Räjähtää Tempaus (“Awesome, Wonderful, Explode”) in 2009 to celebrate the establishment of Aalto University. The idea was to form a chain of people from Arabianranta to Otaniemi, and more than 3,000 people took part in the event! 

In 2016, AYY organised a Tempaus event to raise awareness of the importance of basic education. In the Peruskoulutus, arvokkain aarre Tempaus (“Basic education, the most valuable treasure”), students visited 1,500 Finnish primary schools to talk about and highlight the importance of basic education. Sauli Niinistö acted as the event’s patron.

In its current form, Tempaus is in many ways similar to what it was a hundred years ago. It still brings students together over a theme that is important to them and makes their voices heard throughout Finland. Although the history of Tempaus goes back a long way, the tradition is still strong.

Having the event organised again this year is proof of that. The Kaikkien käsien jälki Tempaus highlights Finnish volunteer work. Working together, community and solidarity are values that are almost a given in Otaniemi. The event will give students national visibility through a positive and cooperation-promoting message. 

A genuine sense of citizenship stems from feeling part of Finnish society. This is not possible if one feels like they cannot influence society – that they are not taken seriously. The sense of being an important actor in building the future as a student is not a given. Tempaus is a great way for every student to experience this feeling – to be part of a meaningful and nationally acknowledged event.

This autumn, the students of Otaniemi will once again show that students are not a passive part of society but active citizens who are prepared to organise themselves and promote the common good. As students, we are able to make a difference in Finnish society. We are the future. 

In the autumn, we get to put on our work gloves. I personally am already looking forward to it. 

See you at Tempaus! 

Juuso Määttä

Tempausesikunta 2024
Tempaus Committee 2024

Read more about this year’s Tempaus at tempaus.fi and follow the Tempaus Telegram channel: t.me/tempaus2024

Sources and further reading:

A list of the most well-known Tempaus events:


The Polyteekkarifilmi film 1924:


Book on TKY’s 125-year history:

Polin suojiin me saavumme taas, J. Hanski 1997

Book on KY’s 100-year history:

Sata vuotta opintojen tiellä, J. Sohlstén-Nederström 2011

Book on TOKYO’s 50-year history:

Taideteollisen korkeakoulun opiskelijaliike viisikymmentä vuotta, I. Turpeinen, J. Uoti 2011

Book on Teekkari Village’s 50-year history:

Tupsukansan koti, P. Nykänen, I. Kohonen 2002

Book on TTEY’s 60-year history:

Toiveet ja todellisuus, P. Nykänen 2008

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