A new public art installation at Bristol University in England is garnering attention for its captivating use of wood samples from more than 10,000 tree species. Titled “Hollow”, the installation is a collaboration by architects Zeller & Moye and artist Katie Paterson, who were inspired by the natural design of a forest canopy. Meant to represent the varying heights of trees in a forest, “Hollow” has an almost Tetris-like appearance, where the trees’ different sizes, colors and textures come together to form a shape like a puzzle- in the artist’s words, “a microcosmos of all the world’s trees”.
Just as one might feel at peace upon entering a forest, those visiting the installation have described it as a zen experience. “The hollow interior is an introverted and meditative space where, whether sitting or standing, one finds oneself embraced by history. 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,” share architects Christoph Zeller and Ingrid Moye.
Some of the samples used, the largest amount ever collected in the UK, are particularly 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,” explained Paterson. “There’s 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.”
“Spanning millions of years, ‘Hollow’ is a miniature forest of all the world’s forests, telling the history of the planet through the immensity of tree specimens in microcosm. The samples of wood span time and space and have been sourced from across the globe, from Yakushima, Japan to the White Mountains of California. From the oldest tree in the world to some of the youngest and near-extinct species, the tree samples contain within them stories of the planet’s history and evolution through time.”
“Hollow” opened to the public on May 9th, and will remain at Bristol University permanently.
Photos by Max McClure.