Landscape architect Anu Hakola receives Lappset prize

Hakola’s Master’s thesis examines memorial trees and their significance as part of the commemoration of the deceased.
An illustration of planting a tree on a grave and the tree's growth
Illustration from the Master's thesis by Anu Hakola: Temporal change

Anu Hakola's thesis, Memorial Trees as Mediators of the Memory of the Deceased, is groundbreaking, as memorial trees have hardly been studied in Finland. In the Master’s thesis, memorial trees refer in particular to trees that are planted at the burial site and serve as a memorial for the deceased person.

Hakola's work highlights the many different meanings that memorial trees can bring to both those remembering the deceased and the dying. They provide a personal form of remembrance, emotional and spiritual support through the growth of the tree and the seasons, and contribute to the diversity of the site's environment, which in turn brings comfort and hope for the future.

The work also has social significance: in a secularised society, in an era of climate change and loss of biodiversity, memorial trees can bring an environmentally sensitive perspective to how we approach death and the commemoration of the deceased.

In her work, Hakola considers how memorial trees could be part of landscape architectural design in the context of Finnish funeral rituals and death culture. It delves into and interprets the connections between the Finnish relationship with nature and the relationship with death by drawing up a plan for a memorial forest in Niskala, Helsinki, next to the existing arboretum. Inspiration for the theme has been provided by sacred groves and beliefs about trees in ancient times, as well as the sense of sacredness experienced in forest nature.

A woman looks up at the camera in an autumn landscape
Anu Hakola

A major source of inspiration for Hakola's work has been the recent narrative data on commemorative trees from the Trees Near Us research project, which she was able to analyse for her thesis.

The Lappset committee found the thesis topic to be theoretically interesting and artistically very worthwhile.

‘The project is a bold statement on the importance of nature and trees in funerary culture. It can be seen more broadly as a critical response to the almost established practice of removing trees from the construction process and to the lack of understanding of the many meanings of a single tree’, said the jury.

The Lappset scholarship is a prize for the best diploma thesis in landscape architecture. It is awarded annually to the author of a meritorious thesis in the Landscape Architecture programme at Aalto University. The prize amounts to EUR 2 000 and is donated by Lappset Group Oy.

The thesis was supervised by Professor Jyrki Sinkkilä and before him by Lecturer Emilia Weckman. The supervisors were Maija Butters and Pirjo Laulumaa.

See the work here

For more information:

Landscape Architect Anu Hakola, [email protected]

Jyrki Sinkkilä, [email protected]

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