Cultural environments

Human activities leave traces in the environment. This is how cultural environments are created and formed.  They tell about human activities and interaction with the environment at different times. 

Cultural environments comprise everything from our homes to medieval churches, from routes for everyday mobility to archaeological sites, and from schoolyards to hiking paths in national parks. They evolve and transform through human actions.  

Cultural environments include:

  • buildings, built areas, yards, parks, traffic lanes and structures
  • landscapes where the impacts of human activities can be seen
  • archaeological heritage, including structures, formations and objects made by humans, that are preserved in the landscape, in the soil or under water

Role of the Ministry of the Environment

The Ministry of the Environment is responsible for the preparation of legislation concerning the cultural environments, landscape and built heritage. We develop and promote renovation construction, the protection of buildings and the management of cultural environment sites in many ways.  

Management of cultural environments improves the state of our planet and people’s well-being

The management of cultural environments saves natural resources, maintains biodiversity and helps to achieve both sustainable development and climate goals. Demolition of buildings and new construction cause a lot of carbon emissions and consume raw materials. This is why it is important to repair and maintain the building stock that already exists. Sites such as open landscapes and semi-natural grasslands are highly important for biodiversity.

Well-managed cultural environments enhance our well-being. They can add a very special narrative to a residential area and attract tourists and business.

How does the law protect our built heritage?

The use and proper maintenance of buildings are the best ways to protect them. Buildings can also be protected through zoning plans under the Land Use and Building Act and the Act on the Protection of the Built Heritage. The aim of the protection that is based on these acts is to create viable cultural environments and good environments for everyday living. The Ministry of the Environment is responsible for the preparation related to these acts and guides their enforcement.  
The municipalities decide on the protection by zoning plans under the Land Use and Building Act. Protection decisions under the Act on the Protection of the Built Heritage are made by the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment.  

The Church Act and the Act on the Orthodox Church apply to the protection of religious buildings, and provisions on ancient monuments are laid down in the Antiquities Act.

How is the work on cultural environments developed?

Cultural environment and cultural heritage issues are promoted in cooperation between the state, municipalities and various kinds of organisations. The Ministry of the Environment led the work on the Cultural Environment Strategy 2014–2020.

Now a process is under way to prepare a Cultural Heritage Strategy that is led by the Ministry of Education and Culture.

Cultural Heritage Strategy

Cultural Environment Strategy

European Heritage Days 

The European Heritage Days is a series of events that bring together millions of participants every year. It is an excellent example of the power of cultural environments in creating a sense of community and boosting real actions for the benefit of one’s own environment. The European Heritage Days are organised in 50 countries and they consist of tens of thousands of separate events. The theme for 2022 is sustainable heritage, and everyone is welcome to organise events of their own or to participate in public events.

Grants for the management of cultural environments

The Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment award grants for the maintenance and improvements of sites with cultural and historical value and their surroundings. Grants may be awarded to private owners, organisations working for the benefit of the built heritage and municipalities.

Grants for the management of cultural environments are also awarded by the Ministry of Education and Culture, Finnish Heritage Agency and Finnish Local Heritage Federation.