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Lighting up the landmarks: Finland illuminates five sites in nine days to celebrate centenary

Light artist Kari Kola is travelling 3,600 kilometres in nine days to illuminate five Finnish monuments, all in honour of Finland's hundredth birthday.

15th century three-tower castle of Olavinlinna illuminated in honour of Finland's 100th year of independence, in Savonlinna, Finland.
15th century three-tower castle of Olavinlinna illuminated in honour of Finland's 100th year of independence, in Savonlinna, Finland. Image: Christopher Lund - Yle

Kari Kola's mission over the nine days leading up to Finland's centennial Independence Day is simple: illuminate five of the most recognisable Finnish landmarks in a blue and white birthday message to the country.

It's a unique project that started in January with an installation at Töölönlahti in Helsinki as Finland's 100th year of independence began.  The concluding series of installations starts on Tuesday with the illumination of Olavinlinna Castle in Savonlinna.

From Savonlinna the series continues in Tampere at the Näsineula tower, followed by Kuusisaari island in Oulu and Saana Fell in Kilpisjärvi, Lapland, before the series culminates with the lighting up of Turku Castle on 6 December, Independence Day.

Extreme places, extreme timetable

Kola says the largest will be Saana fell in Lapland, which will entail the illumination of some 250 hectares or 2.5 million square metres of hillside. He will have travelled some 3,600 kilometres by the time he's finished.

"The principle here is that nothing like this has been done anywhere else before," said Kola. "We're going to extreme places on an extreme timetable."

All the installations are to use a blue and white colour scheme, mirroring the Finnish flag. There is a technical team of 30-40 people underpinning the operation, with four different teams working at the same time to ensure everything slots into place at the right moment, with Kola also on-site well beforehand to supervise preparations.

The project has been granted funding of some 295,000 euros by the Prime Minister's Office as part of Finland's centenary celebrations, the largest single line item in the list of centenary projects.

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