March 03, 2023

Erkki Niemi, Elämyspiha / Garden of experiences

screenprint from the video in the documentation

Visitors to Elämyspiha (Garden of experiences in Finland are welcomed by singer Adama from Kenya and the musicians Joni, guitar, Miro, drums, Pete, accordion and Long Sami, saxophone, together the International Rock Orchestra

Here's a close up of the group:

this picture and the next ones from Elämyspiha's FB-page

Life and works

Elämyspiha, a decorated garden intended to give children and their parents a pleasant and active day in the open air, was created by Erkki Niemi, assisted by his wife Marja..

Niemi, who was born in 1939 and is now retired, worked in the metal industry as the operator of a machine workshop. He was an entrepreneurial and active person who loved going on a journey, making trips through Finland on his bike, like he also was involved in the activities of all kinds of Finnish organizations. 

Characteristic of Niemi is, for example, that during a trip to Austria in 1987, he bought a piggy bank and became so enthusiastic about it that he was going to collect piggy banks and now, with more than 900 copies, owns the largest collection in Finland.

Provided with so much pleasure in life and energy, it is not so incomprehensible that after his professional life, he was looking for a hobby in which he could get rid of his energy and at the same time do something meaningful, this in particular for the younger generation in Finland.

Near his house, located along a main road, is a grassy outdoor space of around 3000 m². In 2000 he started decorating this area with many sculptures and structures and now there are about a hundred items.

To make his creations, Niemi used all kinds of disused items made of metal, wooden sticks and other remnants. His creations of people, as shown in the images above, show that his work has its own specific characteristic.

Apart from the representations of people, the site mainly features creations that facilitate activities for the visiting children. For example, in the foreground of the image above we see a zebra and in the background Pippi Longstocking's horse Pikku-Uko, both creations available for children to sit on and take an imaginary ride.

Making a ride is also possible with the small blue cart that can be seen in the image. It's Grandma Duck's car, loved by kids to sit behind the wheel.

There are also other animals to ride, such as the wolf above left and the dinosaur, above right. 
dino, for children only. 

Also good for some mobility is the climbing rock provided with steps by Niemi, as pictured below.

This climbing rock is intended for children, but there is a story on Facebook that even a 89-year-old has climbed it.

Also on Facebook, Niemi has told that he explained a lively child that one can climb the rock. The boy looked at the rock for a while and then said he couldn't, because, as he said: This is a stone for five year olds and I am only three. After which Niemi, other than usual, was a bit speechless.

Viewed from the field of art environments, it is most interesting to look at the design of the sculptures, so here are two more examples. 

Above left a sculpture of one of the last of the Mohicans, referred to in Finnish as Seisova Karhu (Standing Bear) and above right a Donald Duck, a character that is well known to children and therefore also manifests itself fully in this garden.

Below is another image of a sculpture, this one depicting a lady operating a water pump,

The garden of experiences offers a variety of opportunities to be active, such as playing with golf balls, knocking over bowling pins, or throwing tires. 

You can play with an electric train and search for treasure in four different ways. And then, if you manage to free Little Red Riding Hood from the wolf, you can get a diploma.

Adult visitors to the site may also be interested in its botanical aspects. The garden has a wealth of plants, all presented with their names in Finnish and Latin.

And then there's a pool, which Niemi excavated himself and completed in less than a month. It has a diameter of 4,6 m and a depth of 1,3 m and there are 300 balls floating in it to play with, a sea of balls, as Niemi says.


* Facebook page of Elämyspiha

Article  (September 2015) on newspaper Tarinoita Janakkalasta
* Article (March 2022) on the Finnish website Middle of Nowhere
* Article by Juho Haavisto on the website Maaseudun Sivistysliitto (ITE-art)

* Video on Facebook Watch  (2016, 3'35")

Erkki Niemi 
Garden of experiences
Lintuvuorentie 14
Turenki (part of the Municipality of Janakkala), dept Tavastia Proper, 
region Southern Finland, Finland
visitors welcome

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