Hillevi Callander was an influential architect in Umeå.
Hillevi Callander was born in Södertälje in 1915. She was the only child of a working-class family. Her desire to become an architect was predicated on attendance of both realskola and college, neither of which was automatically accessible to working-class children. Having gained her school-leaving qualifications in 1935 Hillevi Callander interned at an architect’s office in her hometown to better understand what the role of architect entailed, and in the autumn of the same year she was accepted on the architectural course at Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan (KTH, royal institute of technology). Hillevi Callander was one of just two female students amongst twenty-three male students on that course. She graduated in 1940 and began to work in Södertälje, where she had spent her summers working since she left school. Just a year later, however, she began to work for Köpmannaförbundet (now Svensk Handel, Swedish trade federation) and it was through this job that she ended up establishing her architect’s office in Umeå.
Hillevi Callander arrived in Umeå in the middle of the very cold winter of 1946. She set up an office and hired staff, but the uncertain times following the Second World War meant that the world of business there was not yet ready to adopt the new style of department-store shopping. Work opportunities tarried and Hillevi Callander returned to Stockholm in 1949, accompanied by the husband she had met and married in Umeå. A few years later the couple went their separate ways and in 1952 Hillevi Callander returned to Umeå. She began working with Dennis Sundberg, an architect who was responsible for erecting several Umeå buildings in the functional style. Hillevi Callander then began to work for the regional council and one of her roles involved providing new student housing for nurses.
Dennis Sundberg wanted to close down his office in 1959 but Hillevi Callander opted to take it over and then ran the business until she sold the office to VAB, Västerbottens arkitekt- och byggnadskontor (architectural and construction office), in 1978. Hillevi Callander was the chief architect of Umeå’s first municipal day-care centre, several elderly-care institutions, further student accommodation, as well as a number of apartment buildings. She designed the police headquarters in central Umeå, completed in 1965 and subsequently redesigned as a mall.
When Hillevi Callander sold her office she was suffering from burn-out and various other health problems. Her work had been her life and her social activities outside of work also reflected her career interests. She was the only female member of Byggnadstekniska föreningen (construction technology association) and also belonged to Zonta International, an association for professional career women.
Hillevi Callander died in 2005. She is buried at Norra kyrkogården (the Northern Cemetery) in Umeå.