Finnish Women Writing
15 March, 2022
The Women who Rewrote the History of Finnish Architecture
The history of Finnish architecture, like the history of architecture in general, is full of women. Although Finland was one of the first countries in the world where women could train as professional architects, for a long time these women remained in the shadows of history. In many cases, it is still women who write about women. It was the Finnish union of women architects, Architecta, founded in 1942 by the extraordinary female queer architect Wivi Lönn, who first began this movement, which has been continued by new generations of architectural historians who, from the 1980s onwards, have celebrated the voices and amplified the visibility of female designers such as Aino Marsio-Aalto, Else Aropaltio, Märta Blomstedt, Elsi Borg, Hilda Hongell, Signe Hornborg, Elna Kiljander, Eva Kuhlefelt-Ekelund, Martta Martikainen-Ypyä, Raili Pietilä, Salme Setälä, Kaija Siren, and others through publications and exhibitions.
This year, as it is Wivi Lönn’s 150th anniversary, it is a good time to remember women who were architects and designers, but also the historians who wrote female, in addition to many male, architects into the history of Finnish architecture. They include Anja Kervanto Nevanlinna, Marja Terttu Knapas, Riitta Nikula, Aino Niskanen, Kirsi Saarikangas, Renja Suominen-Kokkonen, Eeva Maija Viljo, Ritva Wäre. In fact, most Finnish architectural historians are women. They have done more than simply add female designers to the canon. They have shifted the entire architectural history of Finland towards previously overlooked or neglected fields. These include: nineteenth- and early twentieth-century historicist and art nouveau architecture; histories of restoration and architectural education; historiography; everyday built environments, suburbs, dwellings, gardens and interior design; the relationship between gender and architecture, as well as reflecting on experiences of the built environment.
Almost all the literature that we think of when writing about the rewriting of history of Finnish architecture has been published in Finnish or Swedish. This collection lists English language articles and books including English language content by women on women.