The Spruce House (Kuusi-o-talo)

The Spruce House, Hirvensalo, Turku (2023)

Jan-Erik Andersson continues his collaboration with architect Erkki Pitkäranta and with invited artists, designers, craftsmen and his companion, graphic designer Marjo Malin. Andersson’s new project, the Spruce House (Kuusi-o-talo), is both a tribute to the spruce and a reference to a shape found in nature, the hexagon, which is the shape of the house’s floor plan.

Andersson’s previous house, also the one planned with the architect Pitkäranta, Life on a Leaf, was recently converted into an artist and research residence. The Life on a Leaf house was Andersson’s doctoral thesis on the interface between architecture, nature and art. In his book Total Design, Professor Georg H. Marcus compares the house with masterpieces by Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and Alvar Aalto. However, the house is technically so difficult to build that it is difficult to replicate. In the Spruce House project, Andersson investigates a small house made on a low budget, whose basic “essence” and structure can be repeated.

The Spruce House is also Andersson’s postdoc research at the Academy of Fine Arts (University of the Arts, Helsinki). The planning of the house and the participation of the other artists were financed with a grant from the Kone Foundation.

The floor plans for Andersson’s and Pitkäranta’s previous house projects are taken from the forms of nature. Now they searched for the simplest possible form, which can still be found in nature. There are no squares there, but there are hexagons. Andersson emphasizes how enormously the hexagonal shape affects the atmosphere in the house; there is a natural movement that is not interrupted by 90-degree angles. Getting light in from six different directions also creates a soft atmosphere in the house. By adding an extra corner to some of the windows, five “arrow windows” were obtained, which aesthetically free the spatial experience from the brutality of the square.The house has 74 square meters of living space. Through a millimeter planning, you have a living room, bathroom and technical room on the ground floor and on the upper floor a bedroom, toilet and two work rooms, which also serve as guest rooms. The specialty of the house is the double log technique, with the space in between filled with wood fibres, which results in a 40 cm thick wooden wall without glue. This technique, which originates in the Alps of Central Europe, is rarely used in Finland. The frame of the house is made of Eurohonka. The house has a roof with a carpet of fat bud and is heated and cooled with geothermal energy.

At five of the corners of the house’s facade are sculptures made for this project by five recognized sculptors; Heini Aho, Benjamin Orlov, Riikka Puronen, Kimmo Schroderus and Jenni Tieaho. The sixth corner of the house is open for deposit. We are pleased that the association that cares for the legacy of Ossi Somma has deposited one of Somma’s expressive sculptures. Jyrki Siukonen has chosen the work. Andersson has deliberately selected as different artists as possible and given them free rein to do what they want. In this way, the characteristic of Andersson and Pitkäranta’s design, the element of surprise, has been directed towards the outside world in this project: the sculptures are visible towards the busy main road next to the house. Andersson drew inspiration for this from the neoclassical style of the 1920s and 30s, where the facades of the houses often had small sculptures on shelves or in niches.

In the interior, in addition to Andersson’s and Malin’s own works, there is also an installation made by the artist Kristiina Mäenpää in the small bathroom on the upper floor. It also includes a text part by Uuno Koskela. Following an idea by Marjo Malin, AI has also been used in the project to design, based on images of mold, circular ornamental images, which are attached to the vents of the ventilation pipes. On the vents are also works by Sirja Moberg. Camilla Moberg has designed a sculpture of glass. Cartoonist Krister Nuutinen has carved a picture story above the toilet seat with a heat pen. Oliver Walter’s Luoled light fixture creates a halo of light in between Andersson’s table and his print in the ceiling of the living room. In many places, including the balcony railing, Andersson’s own ornamentation can be found, based on the hexagonal shape.  The English environmental artist Trudi Enwistle has now, through this project, been able to combine the environment based on wild growing natural plants in the Life on a Leaf house, which she planned in 2004, with earth ramps, which she planned in front of the Spruce House. The Onion-sauna has been placed in the middle of the houses. A new work of hers can be seen on the deck of the Spruce house; Swim Stairs on a small jetty, waiting for the sea water to rise.

The playfulness that characterizes the planning of the house is characteristic of Andersson and Pitkäranta. The Spruce house was designed around a two meter diameter round artistic table placed on Andersson’s lawn. The upcoming spaces were tested with wooden sticks in a ratio of 1:1. The mood was festive when the art table was installed as the final decorative element in the finished house. Through the burned temples of the table surface and the ten black “burnt” Philippe Starck chairs around, the theme around which the interior is designed opens up; the fire! The world also burns, the house can no longer be a refuge, it turns into an organism that changes the world!