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Garden of Life

A Sacred Garden for the Anthropocene Era.

The garden brings together a series of my sculptural works, done over a thirty five year span. The works in ice, water and grass etc., minimal and archetypal, are, each in their way, metaphors of life. They have references to the cosmos, to nature and to human nature. Thus the title, The Garden of Life. The garden covers slightly less than one hectare. Its shape and its plant material suggest a symbolic brain. The brain is where we conjure up our symbols and metaphors of life and so the form seemed most appropriate. 

The plant material of the garden seeks to imitate the dense coils of the brain. (What plant material is used would depend on where the garden is built). Narrow paths wind through the vegetation. The garden itself is surrounded on either side by a taller forest. 

The brain, like much of nature, has a natural symmetry. To tie the garden into the larger cosmic order the central axis orients east and west, to sunrise and to sunset. The central axis is also defined by a continuous reflecting pool, a metaphoric river, which flows ambiguously in 3 directions: to the west to the open sea, to the east into a cave and on into the bowels of the earth, and along its entire course, over double dams, in on itself. 

At the end of the diagonal arrival, the first work encountered is the ice covered Ur Monument set in a domed cave. The piece acts both as sentinel and latent fertility symbol. (Like the other ice covered works in the garden it runs on a compressor that freezes the moisture in the air). And at the central axis, to your left, freely suspended at the back of the cave is the work In the Beginning, an ice covered sphere. 

Looking west, emerging out of the symbolic river, is the sculpture Birth, a cross between a sphere and an egg, done in frosty cast glass. It was inspired by the first verse of the Kalevala which tells of the creation of the world. 

To the right of Birth is the Romeo and Juliette fountain with its free standing wall covered in ivy. An homage to the first erotic sparks of life. And to the left of Birth the sculpture Et in Arcadia Ego a cube seamlessly covered in grass. Also set in its own reflecting pool it has a large ice covered wall behind it. The sculpture takes its name from a painting by Poussin of a cube like grave in a beautiful landscape.

Further west, paired on each side of the central reflecting pool are a series of works that, like the left and right side of the brain, suggest a dichotomy. On the left are three smaller pools that contain closed forms (the circle, the square and a circular chasm into which water gushes) and on the other side three pools that contain open forms (the spiral, the cross and a column of water vapor that dissolves into the sky). The geometric shapes are carved into the water via double dams. 

Two other works embedded into the greenery on either side of the central reflecting pool, embody another dichotomy. On the left is the Plus and Minus fountain. Out of the top of the raised plus sign water wells out into the surrounding pool only to pour into the minus sign, a slit in the surface of the pool. On the right side of the axis is the Dance of Life fountain. Dancing jets of water rise up in a circle of out of a low spray of water mist. The work was inspired by August Malmströms Älvalek a well-known 19th century Swedish painting of fairies dancing in the morning mist.

The focal point looking west and silhouetted against the sea, is the sculpture The Tree of Life, a 4 meter high T shape in steel, with water cascading like heavy rain out of its outstretched arms. Beyond that the symbolic river ends in a waterfall over the stone retaining wall and then cascades the short distance to the sea.

Sculpture Projects

Menhir do Monasterio


Retrospective: "The Garden of Life"
Amos Anderson Museum, Helsinki, 2016


The Garden in the Anthropocene Era

The Garden of Life

But Just Imagine that Over Night it Would Suddenly be There


Stuart Wrede
Born: Jan. 1944 in Helsinki, Finland
Citizen: Finland 
Residence: Lisbon, Portugal

Stuart Wrede, architect and environmental artist, studied and spent much of his professional life in the United States. He is a graduate of Yale College and holds a masters degree from the Yale School of Architecture.

In 1969, while a student at The Architecture School, Wrede founded "The Colossal Keepsake Corp." together with Claes Oldenburg and a few fellow students. The nonprofit corporation, of which Wrede was president, commissioned, built and donated Claes Oldenburg's Lipstick Ascending on Caterpillar Tracks monument as a surprise gift to Yale University. A protest against the Vietnam war and a conservative society and campus, the Lipstick was Oldenburg's first built monument. The combination of art work and "political-cultural happening" received considerable world wide attention at the time.

While working in Finland in the early 1970s Wrede became a member of the Finnish artist group Elonkorjaajat. Inspired by Oldenburg his early work were proposals for Ecological Protest Monuments. In Finland Wrede also became fascinated with ice and its properties. Unlike traditional ice sculptors, Wrede's ice projects were more conceptual and minimalist. Melting and freezing were part of the process and the site specific nature of a frozen bay, a datum plane to compose against. Wrede also worked with water, grass and granite. He exhibited with the Elonkorjaajat group in Finland and the Nordic countries as well as participating in a number of group exhibitions in the United States.

After a two year stint in Tanzania working as an architect with Finnish foreign aid, Wrede returned to the United States and began anew to practice architecture. He also taught among others at the Columbia and Yale Architecture schools. In 1978 he guest curated an exhibition on Erik Gunnar Asplund at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and also wrote a book about Asplund (MIT press 1980). In 1985 he became the curator of Architecture and later director of the Department of Architecture and Design at Moma. N:Y: He has organized numerous exhibitions, written catalogs and lectured widely. In 1989 he edited, with Howard Adams, "Denatured Visions; landscape and culture in the 20th century", the proceedings of a symposium they organized at the Museum.

After leaving Moma in 1992 Wrede devoted himself more fully to environmental sculptures and in 2003 he returned to live in Finland. In 2010 a number of his sculptural projects, done over 35 years were brought together into a larger whole, "The Garden of Life" a symbolic garden, and a project he had already begun to think about as early as 1975 when he did the Romeo & Juliette Fountain. In 2014 the garden presented in a computer visualized film and photographs was shown at Prince Eugene's Waldemarsudde museum in Stockholm and in 2016 a retrospective exhibition of Wrede's work was shown at the Amos Anderson museum in Helsinki. Since late 2017 Wrede has lived in Lisbon, Portugal where he continues to work on his sculptural projects.



GARDEN OF LIFE, Exhibition Catalog, Prins Eugene's Waldemarsudde, Stockholm 2014

FOREWORD, Karin Sidén, Director, Prins Eugene's Waldemarsudde


,   Stuart Wrede 


,   Stuart Wrede 

STUART WREDE / PROJECTS 1969 - 2007, TAIDE publishing, Helsinki, 2008


,  Björn Springfeldt, former director, Museum of Modern Art, Stockholm 

Other books and publications

DENATURED VISIONS. Landscape and Culture in the Twentieth Century,      Museum of Modern Art, New York,  1988,    editors: Stuart Wrede and Howard Adams

THE MODERN POSTER.      Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1988,    author: Stuart Wrede

MARIO BOTTA, Museum of Modern Art, New York,     author:   Stuart Wrede


PERSPECTA 12, The Yale Architecture Journal,  New Haven Ct. 1969,   editors:   Stuart Wrede  and Peter Papademetriou


LANDSCAPE AND ARCHITECTURE; the work of Erik Gunnar Asplund,     PERSPECTA 20, the Yale Architecture Journal, 1983

ASPLUND´S VILLA SNELLMAN;  The Classical, the Vernacular and Modernism,  in proceeding of the 2nd International Aalto Symposium,  Museum of Finnish Architecture  1985

AN ARCHEOLOGY OF AALTO.   Progressive Architecture,  April 1977

Work in Museum Collections

Kiasma,  The Finnish Museum of Modern Art, Helsinki

Amos Anderson Museum, Helsinki

Waino Aaltonen Museum, Turku

Museum of Finnish Architecture, Helsinki

Museum of Modern Art, Architecture Study Collection, New York


3D production of film and still photos of garden by Kaktus Film - Stockholm

Photographs of Menhir do Monasterio:

Fernando Guerra

Photographs of the Amos Anderson exhibition:

Jussi Tiainen, Stella Ojala

Photographs of sculptures:

Stuart Wrede, Antero Kare, Seppo Hilpo, Philip von Knorring, Sakari Martikainen, Robert Perron, Erik Uddström, Peter Widen