10,000 tree samples spanning millions of years form ‘modernist grotto’ in bristol
all images by max mcclure / courtesy of university of bristol and situations

 

 

 

on the grounds of the historic royal fort gardens in bristol, artist katie paterson and architects zeller & moye have realized a participatory, public artwork that relays stories of the planet’s history and evolution. ‘hollow’ is a meditative space made up of 10,000 unique tree species whose narratives span millions of years — from petrified wood fossils from the earliest forests that emerged 390 million years ago, to emergent categories of arboreal life. the douglas fir posts that form the façade reflect the varying heights of trees and a forest canopy. once inside the warm ‘miniature forest’, visitors experience a monumental collection of tree specimens surrounding them, sourced and gathered over the past three years from across the globe. above, light filters through apertures in the ceiling, mimicking the way sunlight radiates through a forest. 

katie paterson zeller moye
the installation is sited on the grounds of the historic royal fort gardens in bristol

 

 

 

from kyoto to california, and from the oldest tree in the world to some of the youngest, the samples narrate both human and environmental stories from across the earth — including the indian banyan tree, under which buddha achieved enlightenment, and the japanese ginkgo tree in hiroshima, which survived one of the darkest moments of human history.

 

‘the ‘hollow’ interior is an introverted and meditative space where, whether sitting or standing, one finds oneself embraced by history,’ architects christoph zeller and ingrid moye describe. ‘our design conjoins thousands of wooden blocks of differing sizes to form one immense cosmos of wood producing textures, apertures and stalactites. openings in the vaulted top let in just enough natural light to create the dappled light effect of a forest canopy.’

katie paterson zeller moye
the douglas fir posts that form the façade reflect the varying heights of trees

 

 

 

some samples are incredibly rare – fossils of unfathomable age, and fantastical trees such as cedar of lebanon, the phoenix palm, and the methuselah tree thought to be one of the oldest trees in the world at 4,847 years of age,’ katie paterson recalls. ‘also, a railroad tie taken from the panama canal railway, which claimed the lives of between 5,000 to 10,000 workers over its 50 year construction, and wood salvaged from the remnants of the iconic atlantic city boardwalk devastated by hurricane sandy in 2012.’

katie paterson zeller moye
the exterior posts echo the form of a forest canopy

 

 

 

the artwork — produced public art producers situations — has been commissioned to mark the opening of the university of bristol‘s new life sciences building. alongside hollow, situations has developed ‘treebank‘, a digital platform in association with BBC four that offers everyone the chance to contribute to a online archive of memories, impressions and creative responses which capture how trees shape our existence on the planet. 

katie paterson zeller moye
‘hollow’ is a meditative space made up of 10,000 unique tree species

katie paterson zeller moye
the trees’ narratives span millions of years

katie paterson zeller moye
samples include petrified wood fossils from the earliest forests that emerged 390 million years ago

katie paterson zeller moye
light falls through apertures in the ceiling, mimicking the way sunlight filters through trees in a forest

katie paterson zeller moye
emergent categories of arboreal life are also represented 

katie paterson zeller moye
samples have been sourced from across the world — from kyoto to california

katie paterson zeller moye
the interior of ‘hollow’ forms an introverted and meditative space

katie paterson zeller moye
the samples narrate stories from across the earth

katie paterson zeller moye
the artwork has been produced by bristol-based arts producers situations