Life on a Leaf

This unique house was first conceived in 1999. It was designed to be the home of artist Jan-Erik Andersson and his family. The house is the main part of Andersson’s doctoral thesis in Fine Arts at the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki(University of the Arts). In the thesis, Andersson explores several issues from new perspectives, and discusses the relationship between art and architecture, and between a house and its surroundings. Can you live in a picture or a sculpture? In what ways can nature be gradually introduced – through art and ornamentation – into a house? Can a building’s design based on stories and on representational shapes, such as a leaf, bluebell, or Brazilian ferry, still be considered as architecture? Why don’t we see more houses shaped like flowers, hats or shoes? Can art incorporated in structures create architectural space?

The Life on a Leaf house inspired a dozen of Andersson’s fellow artists to create works of art and poems, which are incorporated in the building: details on the walls and floors, a laminated kitchen tabletop, wallpaper, light fixtures, in-floor video work, outdoor tables and benches, landscaping and a sound installation in a handrail, which responds to changes in the wind and light outside. It could be described as a way of having the family’s friends present. It also refers to the social and communicative side of the house project. The house is not a sealed, private house; it is a place where people with various ideas and aesthetic views can meet and collaborate. Concerts, international think tanks and conferences have taken place at the house.

Research into the visual and design aspects of a sustainable future has to be carried out at many levels. The Life on a Leaf project investigates the ecologic dimension of imagination, the ‘iconic space’, and ‘slow living’ – ideas that have their roots in the Arts and Crafts movement.

The following visual artists and poets have kindly made proposals for works in the house, most of which have been are realized: : Shawn Decker, Trudi Entwistle, Amy Young & Kenneth Rinaldo, Jyrki Siukonen, Pierre St-Jacques, Leah Oates, Kari Juutilainen, Pertti Toikkanen, Susanna Peijari, Karin Andersen, Ismo Kajander, Yuichiro Nishizawa, Jan-Kenneth Weckman, Robert Powell, Frank Brummel, Alice George, Johanna Kunelius.

The total work of art is the home of Jan-Erik Andersson and his family, Hirvensalo, Turku, built 1999–2009. In the future, the house will function as a research station/residency run by the Life on a Leaf Association.