Blue Island is a living, evolving work of art

Urho Kähkönen, a painter and gardener from Kuhmo, commissioned to design and implement a living plant artwork for the Saari Central Library.

Virtual view, Urho Kähkönen, 2023.

As part of the ongoing renovation of Oulu’s main library, the Saari (‘Island’) Central Library, a new large-scale outdoor artwork has been commissioned from Kuhmo-based painter and gardener Urho Kähkönen (1967-). The artwork is a percentage-based art purchase.

The living artwork, called Blue Island, will be installed in a new green area facing the large glass facade of the library building. The artwork will consist of ground cover and bulbous plants, grasses, perennials, conifers, deciduous trees, rocks and decorative stone and gravel areas. Its colours, shapes, contours and composition evoke an image of a sea and an island surrounded by rocky islets. On the island part of the work there is a small building, approximately half a metre high, which in time will be covered with moss.

The artist describes the work as somewhat Japanese in form and structure, but with strong Finnish elements and adapted to local conditions. For example, it does not include species with large flowers that are not found in Finnish nature. Instead, the artist has chosen plants that are easy to care for and sustainable. Over the years, the work will develop into a lush and rich greenscape, especially in late summer and autumn.

The work will live and evolve with the seasons and can be viewed from above from inside the library as well as from the ground level outside the building. Blue Island is set in a large, shallow planting basin that is not crossed by pedestrian traffic. Planting of the botanical artwork will take place in the summer of 2025.