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Kirsi Saarikangas

Kirsi Anneli Saarikangas
Born March 9, 1960, Helsinki

Master of Arts 1987 and PhD 1993 (art history), University of Helsinki

Professor of art history, University of Helsinki 2010–
Director of the research project Nature in Arts, Culture, and History 2014–18
Director of the doctoral programme for History and Cultural Heritage 2014–
Vice-dean of the Faculty of Arts (teaching) 2010–13
Director of the national doctoral programme for women’s studies 2007–11
Professor of women’s studies (acting) 1994–95 and 2003–09
Director of the Kristiina Institute 2003–09
Academy of Finland senior research fellow 2001-03

Research themes: Gender and space, suburbs and modern architecture, urban nature, and the relationship between residents and the built and natural environment.

Awards and special achievements
Member of the Teachers’ Academy 2015–
State Award for Public Information 2006 (editorial board of Suomen kulttuurihistoria 1–5 (‘Finnish cultural history 1-5’))
Finnish Academy of Science and Letters scholarship for an outstanding doctoral dissertation 1994

Photo: Veikko Somerpuro
Written by Kirsi Saarikangas and Suvi Uotinen
Translated by Matthew Billington

The charm of Paris, Stockholm and New York

Doctoral dissertation finalised in Paris at the end of 1990. Photo: Tuomas Lehtonen

After graduating as a Master of Arts in 1988, Kirsi Saarikangas decided to go to Paris for the spring.

Doing her Master’s thesis had confirmed to her that she wanted to be a researcher. In the autumn she had already begun work on her doctoral dissertation in a research project run by Riitta Nikula.

“France was interesting because I had used French ideas about space and gender in my Master’s thesis and when beginning my doctoral dissertation. In addition, my friend’s was vacating her apartment in Paris for the spring.

Saarikanga contacted a few professors at Université de Paris VII and L’Ècole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales to see if she could participate in their courses. “By all means,” came the reply. Initially there were challenges with the language. Saarikangas had only studied French at the University of Helsinki Language Centre.

“I sat in my apartment and watched television. I didn’t think I could understand anything on the news. However, I just went on language courses, read newspapers and research literature, listened to the radio and watched television. I thought that I had to learn this, or else I should just go home. In a couple of months, it started to go so well that I could follow lectures without difficulty and speak fluently and quickly enough on the telephone.”

Saarikangas got to know people in Paris and enjoyed herself so much that she wanted to go back. She lived with her family in Paris for a total of just over three years. The restrained beauty of Paris remains a source of attraction, and alongside Helsinki it feels like a second home.

Another city that is dear to Saarikangas is Stockholm, with whose districts she has grown familiar since her participation in Nordic projects in the mid-1990s. She has spent the last couple of summers learning about Stockholm’s suburbs, parks and gardens.

Alongside Paris and Stockholm, New York, which she already encountered on an excursion in 1984, strongly competes for Saarikangas’s favour. Professor Saarikangas later lived in New York, where she worked as a researcher.

“Visually New York impresses all your senses, but it is also noisy and dirty. Diversity and incongruity are what is attractive about Paris and New York. You can lose yourself in the city and always find something new. You can also live just in your own city block, where the local and the global are simultaneously present.

Urban research in Stockholm. Photo: Kirsi Saarikangas


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