at the University of Pittsburgh are a centerpiece of cultural
activities in Pittsburgh. A common question of the many visitors
— tens of thousands every year — who tour these rooms is: WHERE IS THE
FINNISH ROOM? We of the Finnish Room Committee have made it our task
to correct this unsatisfying situation. However, it is an ambitious
goal for us to raise the $300,000 necessary to cover all the
expenses. To reach this goal, we need the support of other Finns and
Finnish Americans throughout the United States.
Purpose of the Finnish Nationality Classroom:
Finnish Nationality Room is much more than just a classroom, it will serve as the
focus of the Finnish Committee activities.
The Nationality Rooms and
Intercultural Exchange of the University of Pittsburgh honors the people of many different nationalities who
have come to America. The collection of 30 classrooms showcase the rich
cultural heritage of many of Pittsburgh’s ethnic groups. The rooms are
gifts to the University and the ethnic committees formed to create classrooms honor and preserve the traditions of their
Nationality room committees
sponsor workshops on ethnic studies and foster courses in the mother
languages. University classes meet in the classrooms from early
morning until late at night, amidst surroundings designed to enhance
the learning experience. A single hand-carved chair or a stained
glass portrait may set the viewer on a rewarding quest. A steady
stream of people — often families of three generations — come to see
the world-famous rooms, which evoke pride in their own heritage and
warm appreciation of other cultures. The Nationality
Rooms Program conduct tours 7 days a week.
The University of Pittsburgh
Nationality Rooms’ Holiday Open House has showcased entertainers in
native costume, ethnic foods, craft demonstrations, and tours of the
30 Nationality Rooms. For more than 40 years, the rooms have been
decorated by area residents who form the Nationality Rooms Committees
to reflect ethnic holidays, including Kwanza, Chinese New Year,
Hanukkah, India’s Diwali (festival of lights), and Japan’s Kadomatsu
displays of pine branches and bamboo for the New Year, as well as
Christmas displays in other rooms. Guides in national dress present the many holiday
traditions celebrated throughout the world. For many Pittsburgh
families an annual visit to the Nationality Rooms during the holidays
enables their children to experience the holiday traditions of their
heritage as well as learn about the customs of other cultures.
Upon completion of their rooms,
the nationality room committees are dedicated to intercultural
education as well as social and cultural events. Since 1948, annual
summer study abroad scholarships numbering more than 1500 have enabled
University of Pittsburgh students and faculty to study abroad;
lectures, concerts, exhibits, and social events highlight facets of
some 28 heritages; distinguished international visitors are received
by the committees at the University; special projects range from the
purchase of books for the University libraries to publication of
volumes on comparative literature as well as ethnic recipes.
Committees sponsor workshops on ethnic studies and foster courses in
the mother languages.
Contribute to the Finnish Nationality Room Fund:
Please make your check payable to the “University of
Pittsburgh” and be sure to include “Finnish Room Fund” in the
memo section of the check. Mail the check to the
Finnish Room Committee, 1409 Cathedral of Learning, University of
Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260.
You may also to contribute to the
Finnish Room through the Finlandia Foundation. Checks should be
made out to “Finlandia Foundation, Pittsburgh Nationality Room”
and mailed to Finlandia Foundation, PO Box 92046, Pasadena CA 91109-2046.
Online / Credit Card:
You may donate
online securely using Visa, MasterCard or Discover.
Click Here for
detailed directions on how to donate online.
For more information on contributions, credit card
information or a donation in someone’s honor or memory contact our president, Seija Cohen, at 412-372-6876 or via email:
Contributions are tax deductible.
Mika Gröndahl wins design competition for his submission titled The
A competition for the best
potential design of the Finnish Nationality Classroom was sponsored
by the Finnish Nationality Room Committee of the University of
Pittsburgh. First place was awarded to Mika Gröndahl,
architecture student from Oulu University, for his submission titled
The Big Dipper. An overview of his design which combines traditional
decor and state of the art audio-visual technology is displayed
below. The second prize winners are a design team comprised of
Eero Lunden, Heikki Muntola, Olli Saarikoski and Eero Tapio
from Oulu University for their Karelian-inspired submission titled
Piilu. The third prize winners are Jesperi Vara and Jussi
Heinonen from Tampere University of Technology, for their
innovative submission titled KUURA.
Click here to
view a .pdf file containing a description of the winning designs in
both English and in Finnish.
winning design titled The Big Dipper, by Mika Gröndahl, is based
on an early Finnish smoke cottage and combines tradition with modern
technology, original materials, and a coherent theme. The colors are
dark and light woods. The dialog between the traditional elements and
their new interpretation is fresh and modern. Reference is made to
Finnish literature, in particular the story of The Seven Brothers by
Aleksis Kivi. The brothers studied the alphabet in a similar room.
Click here to download a .pdf file (6.8 MB)
by Mika Gröndahl describing his winning design.
The design competition
ended in March 2006 and was open to all Finnish students of
architecture and interior design. Entries had to incorporate the technological
requirements of the contemporary university teaching classroom into an
architectural interior that is expressive of Finland’s past, prior to
1787, the year of the University of Pittsburgh’s founding. Portions
of the winning designs will be incorporated into the final plans for
the Finnish Nationality Classroom.
Click here to download a pdf
file explaining the full contest rules. We were
pleased to receive many wonderful submissions and thank all who
entered the competition.
About the Winning
Gröndahl is a
Finnish expatriate living in New York with his wife and three
children. He is currently on a leave of absence from his
employment as a Graphics Editor at The New York Times, while
finishing his Masters Degree in Architecture from the University
of Oulu, Finland. His thesis project is a 35-story Finland
Center located in the heart of Times Square. After graduation
Mika is looking forward to complete more design projects through
the design company, Lumi 4, Inc., which he runs with his wife.
looking at Walls A and B
looking at Walls C and D
Overview of Room
Overview of Room
showing ceiling panels
Photos of Mika
Dedication of Gifts Ceremony:
On August 4th, 2003 a formal Dedication of Gift Ceremony was held at
the elegant office of Chancellor Mark Nordenberg in the
Cathedral of Learning. This was a glorious moment for the Finnish Nationality
Committee - now the Finnish Room Committee. For years we have
dreamed of a Finnish Classroom at the Cathedral of Learning. The
classroom will serve as a long overdue memorial, a place where the
relatives of the early Finnish immigrants will learn about their
culture and remember the contributions of their ancestors, and a
place where students and visitors will learn about Finland and
Finnish traditions. It will also serve as the foundation
of the Finnish Room Committee cultural activities.
Finnish Room Committee Chairperson, Seija Cohen is shown presenting Mark A. Nordenberg with a Declaration of Gift for a
proposed Finnish Nationality Room. She also gave him a basket of
traditional Finnish sand cookies.
From left Chancellor Nordenberg,
Lorraine Kasari Loiselle, Seija
Cohen, E. Maxine Bruhns Director Nationality Rooms Programs, Dr.
William I. Brustein Director University Center for International
Finnish People in Pennsylvania:
Finns have played an important role in
American history since 1638 when they constituted the majority of
the residents of the New Sweden colony along the Delaware River. In
the New Sweden colony Finns built their customary log dwellings,
soon to become a traditional feature of the American scene, and also
cleared the land using their kaskiviljely technique of burning the
forest and sowing seeds into the fertile ashes. Their ministers were
the first Lutheran clergy in America and their churches, law courts,
flour mills, and homes were the first permanent ones in eastern
Pennsylvania. Often they simplified or anglicized their names in the
process, as did a 1641 immigrant, Martti Marttinen, when he altered
his name to Morton Mortonson. The Mortonson homestead can still be
seen near Philadelphia, but the achievement of his great grandson,
John Morton, was an even more significant legacy. Morton, serving as
a Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress, and briefly as
its presiding officer, gave strong support to the decision for
independence in 1776.
Later Finns were among the immigrants who
came to work in the Pennsylvania steel mills. The autonomous relation with Russia
had created many difficulties for the Finnish people in Finland so
many came looking for a living in the industrial centers in the USA,
among them Monessen, New Castle, Steel City and other parts of
Western Pennsylvania. The Titanic carried many Finns headed for
this area, some of whom lost their lives when the ship sank. The
Finnish people who lived and worked around Pittsburgh kept their
language and culture and they supported the Finnish churches. St.
Luke’s Lutheran Church in Monessen still had a Finnish pastor in the
late 1970s. The Monessen Orchestra Band, “Louhi,” produced band
leaders who were composers of music which still is played today. (To
read more about the “Louhi” band see
During the Celebrations of the 350th
Anniversary of the Swedish Colony, Dr. Matti Kaups, University of
Minnesota, Duluth concluded his presentation about the Delaware
Finns and the American pioneer culture by saying that America is a
nation reaching from sea to sea, not a simple country on the ocean
shore, because of the heritage of the inhabitants in inland and
their teachers, the Savo-Karelian Finns.
Industry and Technology:
Today Finland is a leading country in many fields and is especially
known in design, architecture, and digital technologies. The
communications company Nokia started in Finland and has become a
major multinational company, which invests heavily in R&D and
conducts a large share of its research in Finland. But more than
just Nokia, there are hundreds of small and medium-sized fast-growing companies in the so-called Finnish ICT cluster. As a leading
IT country, Finland’s industries have linked
state-of-the-art technology with excellent design.
Finland is a large exporter of metals
and timber which are widely used in architecture, industry, and
manufacturing around the world. This abundance of building materials
has influenced the Finnish people to embrace industrial arts,
design, and architecture. Finland’s recognition as a leader in
design is based on its strong history, original styling and
high-quality manufacturing. The companies Artek, Arabia, Iittala and
Marimekko all became large exporters of Finnish design. Finland’s
architectural accomplishments are many and recently include a young
trio of architects who share an award for designing the “World’s
Best New Building” in 2001 as decided by an international jury.
In October 2000 Finland was ranked
second in economic creativity by World Economic Forum. It was ranked
the most competitive country in the world in 2001 in the Global
Competitiveness Report. Finland ranked at the top in 2000 by
Transparency International Index as world’s least corrupt nation. It
is at the top of the list in a new barometer of 122 countries’
capacity to protect the environment while at the same time advancing
economic growth. Helsinki’s air is the cleanest among European
cities. Helsinki gets high marks in a public transport survey,
second only to Barcelona. According to the United Nations
Development Programme’s report in 2001, Finland ranked at the top as
the world’s technologically most advanced nation.
Education: Finnish students
consistently rank in the top three among the world’s nations in
reading and math ability. Language skills are emphasized in Finnish
schools and today virtually every Finn up to middle age can
communicate in a foreign tongue, most often English. A basic
education in Finland is free to all school age children. In addition
to teaching this includes all school books, learning materials, and
one hot meal a day. Teachers in Finland are highly esteemed and
there is a lot of competition for teaching positions.
Higher education is divided between
universities and polytechnics. University education prepares the
students to conduct scientific research. The polytechnic provides
instruction that focuses on the skills necessary in the workplace,
providing a degree with a professional emphasis. Higher education
and training is free of charge in Finland at all the public
institutions and universities. The universities decide which
students to enroll through entrance exams.
Music: Another interesting
feature of the Finnish education system is that enhanced music
training is available to most school children. This has generated a
strong interest in the musical arts and created an active and
encouraging concert public. The Finns embrace the music of their
heritage evident in the lasting popularity of folk music, a genre
that has undergone continual evolution and revival. Moreover, the
Finns have a long tradition of excellence in the musical arts. While
the great composer Jean Sibelius, creator of Finlandia in 1899 as
well as many other national treasures may be best known, over the
last 25 years Finnish music has experienced unique growth, and today
Finland has an exceptionally high number of noteworthy composers and
conductors. Finnish conductors are leading the Los Angeles Symphony,
the Minneapolis Symphony, and the Toronto Symphony. Long noted as a
country producing great new opera, Finland’s Kaija Saariaho’s
“L’amour de Loin” (Love from Afar) had its U.S. premier at the Santa
Fe Opera July 27, 2002. “Luther” by Kari Tikka premiered in the U.S.
October 25–27, 2001.
To learn more about Finland, we
suggest checking out Virtual