You’re looking at a birds-eye view of the historic district in the port city of Rauma, on the southeastern coast of Finland. Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991, Old Rauma consists of about 600 wooden buildings, a particularly high concentration of 18th- and 19th-century Finnish vernacular architecture. I was there on Friday for an expert tour given by Tanja Vahtikari. The photo was taken from the tower of Rauma’s 15th-century Church of the Holy Cross.
I know Tanja through the network of urban historians at the Universities of Helsinki, Tampere, and Turku. Tanja is about to complete her PhD dissertation on UNESCO World Heritage sites, and she is using Rauma as a case study. As we spent the day meandering through the old town, with Tanja pointing out sites of interest on each block, we had a meandering conversation about historic districts, heritage policy, and 21st-century compromises.