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Constructing the Finnish welfare state since 1945

The Finnish building stock and infrastructure are relatively young; more than 80 per cent of it was built during the past 70 years. We take these buildings and environments for granted and consider them mundane. They form our childhood landscape and our most familiar living environment, yet we do not always see them as part of our built heritage. Therefore, we need mutual discussion about our values and practices.
At present, the youngest layers of our cultural environment and the related preservation and protection issues are already evident in town planning projects, cultural environment reports and building restoration. Inventories and studies have been made and are today carried out throughout the country, but even more are needed, along with wider analyses.

Modern society changed rapidly

The decades of rapid economic and social growth and development also changed the built environment. Urbanisation in Finland was rapid, taking only approximately 25 years. Industry shifted from the city centres towards the edges of urban areas, and with the help of development area benefits also to the countryside. Agriculture shrank and became more industrialised. People migrated to the cities from the countryside to work in factories and in the service sector in particular. The countryside lost much of its population, especially in eastern and northern Finland.
The structural changes also affected people’s lifestyles: their living environments changed from individual houses in the countryside to apartment buildings in suburbs. An efficient infrastructure was an essential part of modern society. Motorisation and the related constructions, such as roads, parking lots and service stations, moulded the landscape in the countryside as well. The energy production industry was strengthened. The rivers of northern Finland were equipped with hydropower plants, while the use of coal and oil as a source of power and heating increased. A natural gas pipeline was constructed from the Soviet Union to Finland, the first nuclear power plant started operating in Loviisa in 1977.
Social and health care services were expanded to cover all citizens. Society also took responsibility for children’s day-care. The number of school children grew during the post-war decades. The old school system was reformed into a comprehensive school system. Vocational education and the university network also expanded.
People had more leisure time, and consumer habits changed. Self-service stores and suburban shopping centres became common during the 1960s, and supermarkets and car parks from the 1970s onwards. From the 1980s onwards, shopping centres became covered galleries and lounge-like urban areas.

Heritage of tomorrow

The change of modern society had a significant effect on our living environments in cities, other population centres and the countryside. It is now time to clearly determine the heritage built by the Finnish welfare state is, which parts of it are durable and what is worth preserving. The goal is to increase the valuation of the environments built during the latter half of the 20th century as part of our cultural heritage.
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Last updated 11.4.2016
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