Architectural Policy in Finland and Germany: A Comparison

From Kerstin Kuhnekath

Why Finland? Because it is considered a pioneer for everything that has to do with building culture education. As early as 1998, the country adopted an architecture policy to improve public awareness of architecture. The Urbanist and architectural historian Turit Fröbe As part of her work at the Berlin University of the Arts, she set out for a field study to research how successful this architectural policy actually was and what Germany can learn from Finland for its own upcoming processes. Finally, the Federal Government would like to adopt Baukultur guidelines in 2020.

Can you compare Germany and Finland?

Is a comparison between Finland and Germany possible and useful? The author has been confronted with this question many times. The author knows how to refute objections: First of all, she clearly names the differences between the two countries, which “without a doubt, could hardly be more different”, in order to then show concretely how knowledge from small, centralized Finland can be applied to federalist, large Finland Germany can transfer.

Not comparable but transferable

This is done step by step in five chapters. First of all, it is about the different historical and structural conditions of the two countries. In the second chapter the implementation of the Finnish architecture policy from 1998 is presented and evaluated and a look at the newly revised version called APOLI2020 is thrown. In the third chapter the question of how the architectural community could be improved in Finnish society is examined. Turit Fröbe then looks at “Architecture Education” in the school and education system, which roughly corresponds to what we call “Building Culture Education” here. The last chapter finally illuminates the mediation work and how teachers can be enabled to teach architecture or building culture education in schools.

The book can be understood as a handbook for policy-making, or as an educational book on building culture that you can delve into or that you can read across. At the very end of the book, the author provides specific recommendations for policy implementation. For example, the building culture guidelines should lay the foundation for architecture and building culture to be recognized as central components of art and culture. They should include networks of actors and name those responsible who will continuously accompany the process and support further development. Building culture education should be systematically integrated into our education system and, above all, into the teacher training courses.

Architecture as everyday life, not as a special discipline

The exciting comparison of the two countries shows that the way of building reflects the mental state of a society, or that the mental state can promote or even impair building: the Finns have a close relationship with architecture and the general public feels addressed by the topic. In Germany we struggle with our building history and building culture and understand urban planning and architecture as special disciplines.

Germany is struggling, Finland is proud

Why is that? Finland has only been independent for 103 years. Architects – namely Eero Saarinen and Alvar Aalto – built the young country, the identity of the Finnish nation, in the truest sense of the word. The history of architecture is one of the modern, which the Finns are very proud of, says Turit Fröbe (read also the interview with Turit Fröbe). Accordingly, the architects are worshiped as folk heroes. In Germany, the history of architecture is much older and more confusing. The perception of the Germans is different, because the building culture is also a great loss experience due to the destruction in the Second World War, the author finds.

That is why modernity gives us great difficulties. “We learned not to look so closely and, especially immediately after the war, we were careful not to bake architecturally small buns and not to attract attention”, analyzes Turit Fröbe, who also suspects that the current desire for reconstruction stems from the fact that a lot is being done would like to undo and want back what was before.

Assuming too much knowledge

After this psychological inventory, the study delves deeply into organizational and structural details, names the actors in Finland, the initiatives for teaching building culture and their individual successful and less successful steps. It is interesting that the Finns convey building culture on a low-threshold basis, while in Germany a certain knowledge is always required due to the division into good or bad buildings.

Building culture education as general education

In contrast to Finland, Germany never formulated the need that building culture citizenship education should be at the center of architectural policy or building culture policy. But that’s what matters. We don’t need building culture mediation for those who are already planners anyway, i.e. professionals, but for the general public as part of general education.

Turit Fröbe demands that this education should not be an instruction from above, but an experience. For example, children should learn from an early age in schools to recognize and classify their surroundings, not just how to make a model of a high-rise. Here Fröbe clearly differentiates between manual methodology and theoretical knowledge of building culture. It shows that you can combine this education in school with everything that is already there. It would not be an extra subject, but a cross-cutting topic that could be taught in addition in many subjects. It is important that the teachers at the universities learn how to teach building culture.

Germany is 20 years behind

According to the study, we are now at the point where the Finns started their architectural policy 20 years ago. And that although we have had a building culture policy for 20 years. Building culture education is only apparently on the right track so far. Turit Fröbe warns that we need concrete and targeted measures. We would have the possibilities. It is urgently necessary to formulate specific needs.

That’s what she did with this book. But why is building culture education important for the general population at all? Fröbe says: “A society that has a relationship with architecture will no longer let everything go its way, but can participate creatively.” And that is the reason why it should be important to us all. The building culture policy has to reach the population, this book describes how it works.

In an interview, Turit Fröbe reports what Germany should learn from Finland. How she gets people to look at her city lovingly and why that is the key to a more beautiful city, she explains in an interview in Kerstin Kuhnekath’s podcast “Architecture as a Second Language”.

Book Cover Architectural Policy in Finland by Truit Fröbe

Turit Fröbe
Architectural Policy in Finland
How Baukultur education can succeed

Jovis, 2020
192 pages, 35 euros

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