In a landscape of trees, the fields appear like islands, providing intermittent view corridors while riding the train from Helsinki to Turku. The trees are prevalent, dominating the Finnish countryside both in nature and in the built environment. Birch, pine and spruce trees are harvested and employed in a variety of ways. Timber is part of Finnish identity, from the forests that thrive in the Nordic climate, to the tradition of building a summer cottage within the landscape.
My Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant took me to Helsinki, Finland to study the use of wood in Finnish Architecture. As a material to use in the construction of buildings, timber is unique. Timber breathes, it feels warm to the touch, it shrinks and expands and preserves the organic qualities that give it a connection to life. In the words of Juhani Pallasmaa, Finnish Architect and scholar: “Wood speaks of its two existences and time scales; its first life as a growing tree and the second as a human artifact made by the caring hand of a carpenter or cabinetmaker.”