Landscape Observatory explored the state of landscape planning in Finland

A recent study shows that developing sustainable landscape planning requires more cooperation.

The Landscape Observatory, that has been operating in Finland for a year, has diagnosed the implementation of the European Landscape Convention in Finland. The report states that significant work has been done in the universities, administration and social organizations for the benefit of valuable rural landscapes. In the coming years the conclusions of the diagnosis will guide the work of the Observatory.

“Landscape issues are becoming topical in cities and conurbations as well as in industrial environments. However, the landscape is still perceived as an aesthetic and mainly rural affair. The mechanisms behind landscape transformation are rather complex and transversal. The report indicates that sustainable landscape planning still needs effort”, says Chair of the Landscape Observatory of Finland, professor Juanjo Galan from Aalto University.

The diagnosis detected a gap in the development of landscape policies and landscape quality objectives, and suggests that it could be supported by more integrative ways of working in land use, spatial or sectoral planning. The report indicates that increasing lack of confidence in planning, especially amongst some social and political sectors, might affect negatively the implementation of sustainable landscape policies and practices.

The dissemination of a more open and holistic understanding of the landscape concept in Finland and the definition of new frameworks and referents were established as key objectives of the Observatory. The aim is to show the benefits that proactive landscape planning and management can generate for all stakeholders. A special landscape policy is also needed in order to support land use and spatial planning, the definition of which should be the responsibility of different administrations and socio-economic actors.

Research and a vision of landscape

The task of the Observatory is to promote research, discussion, participation and actions on landscape issues. Its aim is to have a more open and holistic view of the landscape. To this end, the Observatory supports the involvement of all stakeholders and partners in the planning and management of landscapes.

A central principle is that all Finnish territories have an associated landscape that deserves study, management and planning. Landscapes can become assets for future sustainable development and wellbeing.

The report identified the most relevant topics for future studies and projects, as well as some potential new members that could extend the social base of the Observatory. The identified topics were in many cases connected with urgent issues affecting the evolution of Finnish landscapes: urbanization, climate change, depopulation of rural areas, intensified forestry, new systems of governance or the socio-cultural dimension of the landscape. The Landscape Observatory will also develop a landscape vision for Finland, considering its specific cultural, biophysical, social and historical characteristics as well as its current challenges. The preparation of the vision should be based in a comprehensive participatory process involving citizens on a wide spectrum.

The European Landscape Convention is a Council of Europe agreement, comprising 38 countries. Its purpose is to promote the care, protection and planning of landscapes. Landscape Observatories are voluntary projects that follow and support the implementation of the Landscape Convention. International cooperation partners include other European landscape observatories as well as UNISCAPE, the Network of European Universities supporting the implementation of the European Landscape Convention.

The Finnish Landscape Observatory members are Aalto University, the University of Helsinki, the University of Jyväskylä, the University of Turku, the Natural Heritage Center, the Finnish Environment Institute, the National Board of Antiquities, the Ministry of the Environment, the Society for Cultural Surveys and the Finnish Landscape Architectural Association. It is currently managed by the Department of Architecture at Aalto University.

For more information:
Chair of the Landscape Observatory of Finland, professor Juanjo Galan, Aalto University, [email protected]

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