November 27, 2021

Vladimir Chernyak, Мини Кремль / Mini Kremlin

pictures are screenprints from the video below

Krasnoyarsk is one of the largest regions in Russia with a length of 3000 km from north to south. It is located in the middle of Siberia and is included here because the art environment reviewed here is a singular architecture that should not be missing in a coherent overview of Russian sites. 

The built structure is located in Taseyevo, a municipality of some 10,000 inhabitants in the Taseyevsky district in the south of the region.

More about this site

The creation, located in a square in front of a high school in Taseyevo, was created by the physical education teacher Vladimir Chernyak, who started the project in the late 1990s.

Built in a 1:10 scale, it was reminiscent of the buildings of the Kremlin and that's why it is referred to as Mini Kremlin. Chernyak used pictures in books and magazines to shape his own creations.

Chernyak, who had no training in construction or architecture, worked on the project for over 10 years, often assisted by pupils.

The uniformity of the stones used suggests that he made them himself in molds. However, whether he was really aware of the required number beforehand, isn't clear. 

the image above -Chernyak bricklaying- appears
in the video in the documentation

The project would take tens of thousands of bricks. Just in the first two towers that were built. more than 14 thousand stones have been processed.  

And then there is a third tower and there are long walls connecting these towers

Chernyak was untrained as a builder, so it is striking to see what a sense of proportion and stylish finish, Chernyak has displayed, even knowing that he used images as an example 

The stepped masonry as shown in the picture above (more details in the picture left) gives an impression of this.

The other images in this article show that the design of the towers, although simple and unadorned, was done with a good sense of proportion.


Unfortunately, the images in this post also show that parts of the towers and walls are falling into disrepair. One can see that stones have fallen out. In some places the walls have cracks.

Teachers of the school want the creation to continue to exist. They have set up a working group to obtain funding for a restoration, and even expansion of the site, from a presidential fund.

Not much is known about Chernyak, the builder of this singular architecture. As far as I understand, he has since left Taseyevo for elsewhere, but it is unclear whether he is still alive and can be involved in any developments

* article (March 2019) on the website of Enisey TV,, with a video
* article (April 2019) on the website of newspaper HKK

* Video (2019) by Yenisei TV company (2'28", YouTube, undated)

Vladimir Chernyak
Mini Kremlin
Taseyevo, Taseyevsky district, Krasnoyarsk region, Russia
site can be seen from the road

November 20, 2021

Zdzisław Syczewski, Bajki ogród / Fairytale garden

pictures are screenprints from the video below

The small community of Hodyszewo in the north-east of Poland, with 139 inhabitants in 2011, is home to a garden decorated with mostly dozens of sculptures depicting a variety of characters from fairytales.

Life and works

This site was created by Zdzislaw Syczewski, a retiree now probably in his seventies, who started this creative project to avoid boredom and to amuse his grandchildren.

Syczewski  lives with his wife in Bialystok, the regional capital, about 40 km north-east of Hodyszewo. In that city he worked as a glass technologist in a glass factory.

For the couple the property in Hodyszewo probably is kind of a country house. They like to go there as often as possible. 

The image above shows that the site has a large garden, with on one side a fence with decorations, undoubtedly made by Syczewski.

Syczewski has now made more than a hundred sculptures, most of which have been placed in the garden
Initially he worked with wood from linden, spruce and aspen, but today he prefers willow wood, which is durable and easy to work with.

As said, the sculptures depict figures from a variety of fairytales, such as the especially in Poland famous Koziolek Matolek the goat (picture above right), a classic of Polish children books, written by Kornel Makuszyński. 

Another example is Masha (picture below left) from the folk story Masha and the bear, main character of a 2009 Russian television series, which became a great success world wide.

In addition to characters from Eastern European and Russian fairy tales, the garden also includes characters from Western Europe and the United States, such as Donald Duck, Pinocchio and the Smurfs.

In general, the creations are freely arranged, standing alone, or in small groups. Only a single sculpture, like the character pictured below, is set up in a small four-post structure with a roof.

The garden also has a summer house, probably made by Syczewski  himself, with a small kitchen and sitting area, very suitable for spending summer days amidst the fairytale characters. 

The self-taught artist continues to make creations that depict characters from fairytales, even though the grandchildren have become older and did outgrow the world of fairies. 

* Article (2020) on website Podlaskie24 with a series of pictures and a video
* Article (2021) on weblog Znalezienie with a series of pictures

* Video (May 2020) by Obiektyw Podlaskie24pl (YouTube, 4'40")

Zdzisław Syczewski
Fairytale garden
Hodyszewo, Municipality of Nowe Piekuty, Podlaskie region, Poland
can be visited when the owner is present

November 13, 2021

Carrière du Chauffour / Chauffour quarry

all pictures courtesy of Owen Phillips, 
from his page on Facebook
When World War I started in 1914, the German army attacked France in the north via Belgium and Luxembourg, an advance that was stopped by France at the Battle of the Marne, after which the two armies became immobile for years in a line of trenches in northern France, stretching from the North Sea to the border of France and Switzerland.

The French army had bases and command posts along the entire line from which soldiers through trenches could go to the front line. 

This article reviews one such post that was set up in a limestone quarry near the Thiescourt community in the Oise department. It's interesting because of the decorations applied in various places of the quarry by soldiers of the French army.

France has more such war sites decorated with works of art, and in most cases the makers have remained anonymous ¹.

However, with regard to the decorations in the Carrière du Chauffour, it is known that four creations were made by Louis Leclabart (1876-1929). Three of these are also named as such, namely a sculpture depicting Jeanne d'Arc, as in the very first image (and enlarged in the one above left), a depiction of a two meters large Sphinx, above right, and another one of a fountain (no picture here). 

The fourth creation hasn't been specified, but it might just appear among one of the next images in this post.

dancing Parisian ladies
More about Leclabart

Born in Péronne on July 26, 1876, young Louis attended the art school in Amiens at the age of ten, got a job at the studio of the painter Albert Roze in 1893, was in military service in 1896 and 1897, and then went working at a studio again.

There are no known works of art that he could have made during that period. In 1914, now in his late thirties, he was mobilized. Because of his age he did not have to go to the front, but he did maintenance work and was a stretcher bearer. 

Between June 20 and September 11, 1916  he worked at the Chauffour Quarry, where he made some of the decorations depicted in this post.

Later, from March 1918, he would work in the army as a designer of blueprints from aerial photographs. and he illustrated his personal notebook with drawings of airplanes and aeronautical scenes.

Demobilized on January 6, 1919, in the early 1920s Leclabart would realize eight monuments, which were built in particular in a number of communes in the Somme area, this in honor of war victims from those communes.

Louis Leclabart died on October 22, 1929, aged 53.

More about the quarry and its decorations

The military settlement in the quarry was 250 meters from the front line, accessible to the soldiers through trenches. It would be in use from 1914 until June 1918, when it was 10 km behind the German lines.  The war ended with a ceasefire on November 11, 2018

The quarry was located partly in the open air and partly underground. Various shafts provided light in the underground part. There were also the quarters for the soldiers, which offered protection against bad weather and possible bombardments from enemy cannons.

Besides the dormitories for the soldiers, there were rooms for officers, kitchens, toilets and also a chapel for religious activities with an altar and a cross.

a cross rises over an altar in  the chapel

The decorations on the walls of the quarry are part of a large number of inscriptions made by the soldiers, such as surnames, scenes of military and daily life, all kinds of portraits, caricatures of enemy soldiers, flowers and so on. 

In the midst of all those inscriptions, the ones illustrating this article, not only those of Leclabart, offer a qualitative surprise.

Since November 1999, these creations have a protected status as a historical monument, which is indicated on the spot with a sign.

In the opening photo of the website of the municipality of Thiescourt there is an image of the sculpture of Jeanne d'Arc, as it appears in the quarry.

In an article (with the heading "Retombées économiques") on that website, the possible expansion of  tourist visit is discussed. One thinks of promoting green tourism, for example by building footpaths, but also promoting cultural tourism in which visits to various places of interest are mentioned, such as the church, but also the Carrières du Chauffour. .

Including the quarry in a touristic route will  probably require a lot of consultation, because the site is privately owned and the owner is reportedly not very keen on opening the site to visitors.

Website of the French Ministry of Culture stating the monumental status of the decorations
* Article (2013) by Pierre-Henry Muller about the Carrière du Chauffour
* Article on Wikipedia about Louis Leclabart
* Article, by Rémy Cazals, also about Louis Leclabart

 ¹ This weblog already has an article about the quarries of Confrécourt in France

Carriére du Chauffour
near Thiescourt, dept Oise, region Hauts-de-France, France
visitors are not very welcome, 
so don't be surprised if a guard turns you away

November 11, 2021

Thirteenth anniversary of this blog

picture of a sculpture by Fernand Châtelain
courtesy of Marcello 13 (Flickr)

Bonjour aux promeneurs, Hello walkers,

With above picture of a sculpture by Fernand Châtelain this blog started on November 11th, 2008. 

Existing today, November 11th, 2021 for thirteen years, it now includes reviews of some 540 art environments in Europe. 

As in previous years I will relate here data about numbers/origin of visitors and about most viewed art environments.

Number of visitors

On November 10th, 2021 the all time number of visitors was 983.870. On November 10th, 2020 it was 890.062, so there is an increase of 93.008 visitors, or on the average 257 visitors a day. 

Over the period 2019-2020 the average was 193 visitors a day, so the number of daily visitors has increased. Thank you for your interest !

All time page views by country

As in previous years here is the all time rank of top ten countries as regards page-views (as on November 8)

  1. United States 312.000
  2  France 98.700
  3. Netherlands 70.300
  5. Germany 66.900 
  6. Italy 38.000
  7. Russia 34.900 
  8. Ukraine 23.900
  9. Spain 17.200
10. Sweden 9.700

In general the top ten list includes the same countries as in 2020, almost in the same order, except that France and Netherlands and the United Kingdom and/Germany changed places. and that Sweden ousted Poland from the tenth place.

Most viewed sites all time
Here is an overview of the top ten most viewed sites all time (as on November 8):

  1.  Bill and Elisabeth Charge, UK, Watford shell garden6413
  2.  Robert Garcet, Belgium, Eben-Ezer Tower, 5853
  3.  Joseph Ferdinand Cheval, France, Palais Idéal, 5767 
  4.  Jose Maria Garrido, Spain, El Museo del Mar, 4999
  5.  Robert Tatin, France, Maison des champs, 4649
  6.  Roy McCormack, UK, Beach flint sculpture garden, 4462
  7.  Bodan Litnianski, France, Garden of shells, 4531
  8.  Chomo, France, Préludian art4160 
  9.  Karl Junker, Germany, Junker's House, 4075
10.  Abbé Fouré, France, Sculpted rocks, 3760  

The top ten above includes almost the same names as in 2020, except that two sites are newcomers, namely Roy McCormack's sculpture garden in Bristol, UK, and Karl Junker's decorated house in Lemgo, Germany.

The large number of visitors to the article about Bill and Elisabeth Charge's decorated garden has to do with a message on Facebook from a granddaughter of the couple. See the relevant post on my blog.

One might wonder where the famous French mosaic-decorated Maison Picassiette created by Raymond Isidore appears. It turns out that the site is 17th in the list of 11-20, which follows below:

11. Oreste Fernando Nannetti, Italy, Wall inscriptions, 3899
12. Joseph Pujiula i Vila, Spain, Labyrinth, 3827
13. José Garcia Martin, Canaries, Spain, Sculpture garden, 3895
14. Francisco González Grajera, Spain, Decorated house 3850
15. Stephen Wright, UK, House of dream museum, 3748
16. Erich Bödeker, Germany, Sculpture garden, 3661
17. Willem van Genk, Netherlands, Arnhem Bus Station, 3617
18. Raymond Isidore (aka Picassiette), France, Mosaic decorated house, 3593
19. Julius Klingebiel, Germany, Decorated room, 3500
20. Bonaria Manca, Italy, Decorated house, 3456

A closer look reveals that the two lists presented above mainly mention art environments located in Western Europe. That is not to say that Eastern European and Russian creations are missing from the inventory. They've attracted fewer visitors so far, in part because I didn't start looking systematically for these sites until 2014.

Here are data about the number of visitors of art environments in Russia (number of visitors +1000):
 1. Alexander Emelyanov, Decorated garden, 2614
 2. Alexander Ladogina, Church, 2061
 3. Sergey Kirillov, Decorated house, 2024
 4. Yevgeny Malakhin (artist name Bukashkin), Paint the garbage, 1748
 5. Petr Zhurilenko, Sculpture garden, 1703
 6. Egor Utrobin, Sculpture garden, 1318
 7. Collective of conscripts, Scattered sculptures, 1308
 8. Lyudmila Kneller, Mosaic decorations, 1110

And to conclude here are data about Czechia, Poland and Ukraine (number of visitors +1500)

  1. František Rint, Czechia, Ossuary, 2836
  2. Vàclav Levy, Czechia, Rock sculptures, 2777
  3. Bogdan Ziętek, Poland, Interior with sculptures, 2527 
  4. Stanislav Sartsevich, Ukraine, Sculpture garden, 2187
  5..Nicholas Golovan, Ukraine, Decorated house, 2164
  6. Felicja Curylova, Poland, Decorated house, 1868
  7. Boguslawa Iwanowskiego, Poland, Sculpture garden,,1742
  8. Polina Rayko, Ukraine, Decorated house, 1624
  9. Vojtech Kopic, Czechia, Sculpted rocks, 1596
10. Vladimir Chaika, Ukraine, Decorated stairwell, 1517

Of course, above listings are just meant to give an idea of the focus of the visitors of this blog.

So much for this overview of data regarding the thirteenth anniversary of my weblog Outsider Environments Europe. Let's see what the coming time brings us all.

November 05, 2021

Anonymous, Rautaveistoksia Ronttopuisto/ Iron sculptures in Rontto park

pictures courtesy of Sophie Lepetit
from her weblog
Driving north towards Paloki on national road 542 in the North Karelia area in Eastern Finland, one will pass Cafe Saurus

For those interested in art environments it is advisable to stop there and look around in the sculpture park Ronttopuisto located near the café.

Near the entrance of the café a high-rising dinosaur made from sheet metal welcomes visitors to the park and the café, that takes it's name from that creation. There is a sign by the dinosaur that -freely translated- says that he comes from further away and that in this part of the world there are little roadside eateries.

The name of the person who made the sculptures exhibited in the park, is only known to a small circle. For the general public, the artist wishes to remain anonymous. The maker's skill in shaping and welding iron materials suggests that he is or was a blacksmith.

Apart from some large creations, this art environment mainly includes small-scale sculptures, which often have been made  of metal rings welded together, such rings as are used to make heavy chains.

As the accompanying images show, some of the sculptures are very colorful in appearance. These depict characters that appeal to children, such as Donald Duck, above at the right. A caption accompanying the sculpture reads I'm a poor duck. Give me a lute!

The image above left depicts a blacksmith, about whom the accompanying caption says: With a mallet and piglets in a sack. I am, after all, a big and evil smith. Maybe not so innocent towards children after all?

The images below depict an eagle (at the left) and an old man with a walking stick (at the right).

The image below depicts Pegasus, a winged, divine horse from Greek mythology, usually depicted in white. 

The horse in Ronttopuisto can carry two children and with a mechanism it can make a movement as if it were taking off.

The park has a playground for children and the Café Saurus can arrange cottage accommodation and sauna facilities on request

* Article by Minna Tuuva  on the ITE Taide website
* Article (2016) on weblog Kauneudesta lapsiin

Iron sculptures in Rontto park
79830 Heinävesi, North Karelia, Eastern Finland, Finland
can be visited freely

October 29, 2021

Zdeněk Procházek, Špacírštejn, ručně vybudovaný hrad / Špacírštejn, hand-built castle

all pictures courtesy of Pavel Konečný
In a forest near the Czech community Lipová there is a singular architecture in the form of a round tower with extensions, all together depicting kind of a castle, It's a construction handcrafted by Zdeněk Procházek.

Life and works

Procházek, born in 1945, lives with his wife in Lipová, a community in the Czech Republic, west of the city of Olomouc. Now retired, during his working life he was a construction worker.

There is no information available about his early years. The earliest report says that in the 1970s  he liked to roam the forest near his hometown, for example to pick mushrooms

During those walks it appeared to him that on the slopes near the village there were many half-destroyed walls. once built by farmers on local fields, but now for no particular use. 

He also saw the stones of such an old, partly decayed wall, being loaded into a truck to be transported to a destination outside his own village.

Procházek talked about this with the mayor, who suggested him to restore such a wall himself, Reflecting on this suggestion, he came up with the idea not so much to rebuild a wall, but rather to use the old stones to build something beautiful.

That thought did not leave him. It came to his mind to use the stones to build a castle and indeed, in 1982, in his mid-thirties, he started to realize his idea in a construction project that would take ten years [1]

As said, Procházek was a construction worker by profession, so he must have had no trouble with the technical aspects of the building process. However, in the field of architectural design he was self-taught.

He collected hundreds and hundreds of buckets full of old stones, which he then had to apply with his own hands. 

The majority of the stones were placed in the dry way, so without using mortar. This means that, taking into account the shape of the bricks, they should be stacked appropriately. Only the foundations of the various parts of the structure have been reinforced with mortar.

The image below gives an impression of the way the stones have been stacked.


The various parts of the building, together forming the castle, are situated at the top of a slope in the landscape, the donjon at the highest point and the adjacent buildings partly on the slope, making them  appear to be somewhat small when seen from the top of the slope. 

Visitors can freely enter the castle, including the donjon, except for one of the adjacent buildings where tools and maintenance equipment are kept behind a locked door.

Over the years, the castle became more and more known and the number of visitors increased. Today, Procházka himself regularly visits the site to replace loosened stones and clear up clutter.

Due to his architectural achievement and contribution to tourism, in September 2021 he was awarded the first prize of the Olomouc Region in the touristic category Undiscovered Jewel .


* Article (October 2019) on the website of the journal Deník
* Article (October 2021) on the website of the journal iDNES
* Article on touristic website HRADY, with a series of pictures
* Article on another touristic website OK-tourism (OK = Olomoucký Kraj)
* Entry on website MAPY with a map indicating the (walking) route from Lipova to the site, as well as a collection of photos made by various visitors

* Video (July 2018) by Mikin Mikin  (YouTube, 2'33")

[1] These data correspond to comments made by Procházek when he was interviewed in 2019. There are other publications that say he was active in construction from 2006-2010

Zdeněk Procházek
Hand-built castle in forest
near Lipová,   Czech Republic
located in public space
for walking route from Lipová to the site see Mapy

October 22, 2021

Tuomo Rantanen, Veistoksia ja muuta rautaa / Sculptures and other creations from iron

pictures courtesy of Sophie Lepetit,
from her weblog
The house pictured above, with some iron sculptures in close proximity, is located in Punkalaidun, a small municipality of around 2800 inhabitants, south-west of the city of Tampere, in Central and Western Finland's lake area. 

The creator of the sculptures, non-professional artist Tuomo Rantanen, lives here with his wife Laila.

Life and works

Tuomo Rantanen, nicknamed "Tumppi", born in 1963, had to quit his job in 1995 because he was afflicted with a rare cervical dystonia, a disease in which the muscles in the neck and shoulder are excessively tense and the head usually turns to one side. It is a disease for which there is no curative treatment and Rantanen is currently still suffering from it.

A man with an open and warm attitude towards all people, Rantanen decided not to give up and,  encouraged by his wife Laila, he focused on making iron sculptures.

Having been doing this for more than 25 years now, Rantanen has meanwhile made a dizzying number of creations, many hundreds of small-scale sculptures, a creative production of which the images in this text give a limited impression. 

By being active in a creative way Rantanen constantly renews himself, both physically and mentally, and as a result of his activity he comes into contact with a variety of people.

In the workshop at his home in Punkalaidum, Rantanen processes all kinds of scrap iron, such as old car parts, pieces of sheet metal and disused iron cans and barrels. To process these materials and transform them into artworks, in terms of equipment little more is needed than hand tools, a welding machine and a vice. Because of his handicap, Rantanen prefers to work seated on his knees.

He creates works of art to amuse people with the elaboration of his ideas in which he is inexhaustible. His creations usually radiate something beautiful, something hilarious or something good-natured, and on top of that they are also weatherproof ..... 

Rantanen easily contacts with all kinds of people and organizations.

For example, it has been mentioned that he is happy to coach a group of children when they meet at the local library to make Christmas decorations.

He also has contacts with regard to participating in exhibitions, especially in Pirkanmaa, the area where he lives. In recent years, for example, his work has been shown at an exhibition in Porttikallio, a municipality neighboring his hometown Punkulaidum. 

In 2018 his creations were exposed in the Finnish Workers' Museum Werstas in Tampere, about 65 km north-west of Punkulaidum as the crow flies.

At a summer 2017 exhibition in Aaka, about 50 km east of Rantanen's hometown, it happened that a sculpture called Sammak (pictured above right) was molested. He was able to repair the damage, as he tells and shows in the first video in the documentation below.

* Article (2018) on website Aarteet ja Löydot
* Weblog of Sophie Lepetit with pictures and informative texts  
An interview (June 2018) of Hanna-Mari Kamppikoski with Rantanen on the Facebook account of the municipality of Punkalaidum

Video about the Sammak sculpture by Maaseudun Sivistysliitto (January 2018, YouTube, 2'43")

* Another video by Maaseudun Sivistysliitto (2017, YouTube, 4'13") showing Rantanen at work in his workshop

Tuomo Rantanen
Sculpture garden
Punkalaidun,  Pirkanmaa, Central and Western Finland
visitors welcome on appointment