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Arnold Alanen

“From Finland to North America: Buildings, Landscapes, and Cultural Change”

Lecturer of the Year: 2009-10

Arnold Alanen, Professor Emeritus of Landscape Architecture at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, was the third Finlandia Foundation Lecturer of the Year (LOY). He followed in the footsteps of film director Ben Strout (Fire and Ice: The Winter War Between Russia and Finland) and the duo of Susan Saarinen and Mark Coir (The Saarinen Family Design Legacy in Finland and America).

Alanen, a distinguished cultural landscape historian, has written extensively on vernacular architecture, settlement patterns of Finnish immigrants throughout North America, and cultural resource preservation. A third-generation Finnish American, he speaks and reads Finnish and has been a Fulbright Fellow in Finland as well as Visiting Professor at the University of Helsinki. He is well known in Finnish-American circles through his numerous, popular, and well-illustrated presentations at FinnFests.

His lecture, “From Finland to North America: Buildings, Landscapes, and Cultural Change,” tied together the insights of a long career into the Finnish immigrant story and the world the immigrants built in North America.

How did the sauna change when it crossed the Atlantic Ocean?

What ideas about wilderness, clearings, farmsteads, trees and wetlands did the immigrants bring with them?

What did they discover about making places in North America?

Wherever possible, Professor Alanen researched the location of his lecture and included actual local Finnish buildings in his talk.

Professor Alanen was on board the FinnFest cruise ship Westerdam and gave several talks on the Alaskan Finnish experience.

Jon L. Saari, LOY Coordinator