【Listening to Finland】 Balance and Respect


Minsheng Lecture



Anna Ni

Finland, Where Human and Nature Lives in Harmony

Guest: Anna Ni
Co-hosts: Consulate General of Finland in Shanghai, Business Finland, Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum
Date: October 25, 2020
Time: 14:30-17:00
Venue: Multimedia Hall (1F), Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum

Notice:For public health security, please make a real-name preservation and bring your ID for admission of the event. Please wait in line to get your temperature measured, hands sanitized, and information registered with the help of our staff. Please wear a face mask during the event. If you are experiencing a fever, coughing, or short breath, please understand that admission is not granted.

2020 marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Finland. Coincidently, the current exhibition in Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum is the great Finnish contemporary artist duo Tommi Grönlund and Petteri Nisunen’s first solo exhibition ever held in Asia. During this exhibition, Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum collaborates with the Consulate General of Finland in Shanghai and Business Finland to launch the series of public education activities “Listening to Finland” in honor of the 70th anniversary of China-Finland diplomatic relations. This series of public education activities will cover diverse aspects of Finland, including art, architecture, design, education, lifestyle, people’s relation with nature, etc., in order to panoramically reveal the contemporary cultural climate of Finland and bring in new energy to the current conversation between China and Finland. Hopefully the audience can be inspired to have more perspectives on the current exhibition.

Finland is known as “the Land of Hundred Thousand Lakes and Islands” and the most heavily forested country in Europe. A nation nurtured in nature, Finland has embedded the harmonious lifestyle with nature into their DNA. Even a megacity like the capital Helsinki is covered by large area of forests and nature reserves. Mother nature is only one or two kilometers’ walk away.


Almost an eighth of the Finnish population has private ownership of forest, while the others are free to execute “everyone’s right”—entering the forest. With the only exception of some strictly protected area, all Finns and the tourists in Finland are allowed to go hiking, skiing, biking, and riding horses in forests. They can also pick up flowers, berries, and mushrooms, and of course, camping. These rights can be enjoyed in most of the forests. However, these enjoyable rights come with obligation and responsibility, such as not to cause any damage to the natural environment or the land owner.

Löyly is a restaurant with saunas occupying a stretch of beautiful Helsinki waterfront. Built in 2016, it is only 2 kilometers from the city center. The plot is situated in a future coastal park that will be part of a broader “Helsinki park” connecting the capital city to the sea. Therefore, the Avanto Architects designed the building with raw wooden material. When the wooden building turns gray, it will become more like a rock on the shoreline. Instead of building a conventional building, Löyly is developed into an easy-going, faceted construction that is more part of the park than a conventional building. The building is first FSC-certified building in Finland and second in Scandinavia. Forest Stewardship Council’s certificate proves that wood material comes from responsibly managed forests. The Finnish philosophy of living in harmony with nature is in every detail of the design.

On the main island of the Suomenlinna fortress, there is an architecture that seems just as common as all the other buildings, but it is actually an open prison—with no high walls or armed guards. There is no ban on cell phones and the prisoners have paid jobs to cover their living cost, including food, which they can go out and buy. Some inmates are immersed in studies and others have jobs in the city, focusing on rehabilitation and preparation for re-entering the civilian life. Since the rest of the island holds a fortress that was designated a World Heritage Site in 1991, there are lots of tourists and they keep accidentally walking into the prison. What’s more surprising is the accommodation condition: the single-room, single-storey accommodation includes shared kitchens, toilets, showers and saunas. Giant flatscreen TVs dominate the lounge area, and a barbecue shelter stands near a quiet pond. There is nothing draconian or even severe about this place, but to dwell on its comforts, and to feel respected. It is a glimpse of the social sustainability philosophy and developmental strategy.
The Finnish respect for nature and pursuit for balance is not limited to nature itself, but also on architecture, society, and life. In this lecture, Anna Li from Business Finland will share about how Finnish people live in harmony with nature, including the details that touched her with surprises.

About the guest

Anna Ni

Born in Shanghai in 1986, she graduated from Cultural and Creative Industry Management program at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Member of Shanghai Society of Civil Engineering. She is now a senior advisor at Business Finland. Anna is dedicated to publicizing and promoting sustainable forestry.