Carved in snow and ice: a Finnish landmark rises in Japan

The elaborate sculpture takes a team of engineers and artists to construct it.

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Helsinki Cathedral carved from snow and ice at Sapporo Snow Festival, February 2019 / Credit: Finnish Embassy Japan

One of the most recognisable buildings in Finland has been recreated in Japan.

The gleaming white Helsinki Cathedral Tuomiokirkko in Senate Square has been painstakingly carved out in snow and ice at the world famous Sapporo Snow Festival.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the festival which brings together some of the world’s most talented visual artists to work with snow and ice.

If the reproduction of the Helsinki Cathedral looks a little more complex than a snowman you might build in your back garden, that’s because there’s a whole team of engineers who work to with heavy equipment on a complex operation to build a wooden scaffolding structure, then pile snow inside to form the core of the sculpture.

After the tightly packed snow is ready, the wooden panels are removed and the carving begins. Finally, an extra layer of snow is put on the outside to give the last perfect look.

The Helsinki Cathedral snow sculpture was unveiled to the public at a ceremony in Sapporo, and thousands of people are expected to view it during the festival.

A Finnish team will carve a piece called ‘Metsänpeitto’ as part of the competitive element of the Sapporo Snow Festival this year.

Artists Anna KoivukangasElla Kayhko, and Katja Dianoff will compete against teams from the USA, China, Asia and Europe to be claim the top spot, and they have just four days to carve their finished entry.