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11.00  There Are No Two Alike: History, Urban Heritage and Characterization of the City

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9:00, Mardi 7 Juin 2016 (30 minutes)

Finland is a country that is more noted for modern architecture and contemporary design than urban history and treasures of cultural heritage. The urbanization of the present-day Finland started in the early fourteenth century with the establishment of six cities by the mid of the fifteenth century. These cities are using their medieval history selectively in branding and identity-making of the town as well as in tourism and cultural events when desired, but what is the value and presence of cultural heritage, history, and archaeology in other towns?

This paper will discuss how archaeological and historical heritage are presented in today’s townscape in Finland. It is based on reflections catalyzed by recent urban excavations and research I conducted in two different cities with different histories and identities. Turku is noted for its history as the oldest town of Finland while the other town, Lahti, is characterized as the youngest town of Finland, founded in the early twentieth century. In these towns, what is the role of the town’s history in development, architecture, and city planning? How are archaeological and historical heritage valued and noted by decision-makers, developers, and the public? What are the premises and perspectives for including cultural heritage and information about the past in the architecture and townscape of the future? Who decides what kind of cultural heritage is worth preserving and presenting, for whom and in what way? The answers reflect the responses and feedback I received when I introduced my ideas for including the past in the city planning of today.

The FARO Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society (2005) emphasizes the value and potential of cultural heritage wisely used as a resource for the sustainable development and quality of life in a constantly evolving society. According to the convention, cultural heritage is a group of resources inherited from the past, which people identify, independently of ownership, as a reflection and expression of their constantly evolving values, beliefs, knowledge, and traditions. It includes all aspects of the environment resulting from the interaction between people and place through time. 

Heritage is not, however, merely something to be conserved or protected but rather to be modified and enhanced. Heritage is also what we shape and experience in relation to each other and the surrounding environment with the reflections of past and perspectives into the future. The towns are changing and developing constantly, but the people and decision-makers can decide the direction and the pace of the change and characterize the city in many ways.

Liisa Seppänen


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