Hollow by Katie Paterson with Zeller & Moye, 2016. Courtesy University of Bristol and Situations. Photo Max McClure.


Commissioned to mark the opening of the University’s new Life Sciences building in the vicinity of the gardens, Hollow is a new public art work by artist Katie Paterson with Zeller & Moye. Produced by Bristol-based arts producers Situations, the project is the result of three years’ research and sourcing of one of the largest tree samples amassed in the UK to date.


Developed in pursuance of a public art condition for University of Bristol Life Sciences building, over 10,000 unique tree species have been gathered from across the planet, from Yakushima, Japan to the White Mountains of California, with generous donations from the Herbario Nacional de México, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Kyoto University, the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard and many more.

Katie Paterson recalls: “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, as well as 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 is salvaged from the remnants of the iconic Atlantic city boardwalk devastated by hurricane Sandy in 2012.”

The samples of wood span time and space and have been sourced from across the globe. 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. From the Indian Banyan Tree, under which Buddha achieved enlightenment, to the Japanese Ginkgo tree in Hiroshima, a tree that witnessed and survived one of the darkest moments of human history.

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 exterior cluster structure reflects a forest canopy’s ecosystem, the forms of the Douglas Fir posts reflecting the varying heights of trees. The interior of Hollow tells the history of the planet through over 10,000 unique tree species, from petrified wood fossils of the earliest forests that emerged 390 million years ago to the most recent emergent species.

Hollow was unveiled on 9 May at Royal Fort Gardens to mark the opening of the University of Bristol’s new Life Sciences building.



Collaborating with leading scientists and researchers across the world, Katie Paterson’s poetic and conceptual projects consider our place on Earth in the context of geological time and change. Her artworks make use of sophisticated technologies and specialist expertise to stage intimate, poetic and philosophical engagements between people and their natural environment. Combining a Romantic sensibility with a research-based approach and coolly minimalist presentation, her work collapses the distance between the viewer and the most distant edges of time and the cosmos.

Katie Paterson is regarded as an artist working at the forefront of her generation. She has exhibited internationally, from London to New York, Berlin to Seoul, and her works have been shown in major exhibitions including the Hayward Gallery, Tate Britain, Kunsthalle Wien, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. Her artworks are represented in collections including the Guggenheim, New York and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh. She was winner of the Independent’s Creative 30 award ‘for Britain’s most creative young person’ and the winner of the Visual Arts category of the 2014 South Bank Sky Arts Awards. Katie was recently awarded an Honorary Fellowship at Edinburgh University recognition of her major contribution in fostering collaboration between the arts and sciences’.


Christoph Zeller and Ingrid Moye founded Zeller & Moye as an architectural studio that operates with an interdisciplinary and global approach, with bases in Mexico City and Berlin. The studio established a unique working method of extensive experimentation for the development of a project in order to articulate meaningful proposals for the contemporary world. Zeller & Moye has designed a wide range of projects at all scales from furniture design to large cultural buildings in different parts of the world. Christoph Zeller and Ingrid Moye have been practicing architecture for more than 14 years including work for international practices SANAA in Tokyo and Herzog & de Meuron in Basel and London, leading numerous projects such as the ‘Tate Modern Project’ and the ‘Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012’. Zeller & Moye are currently realising a memorial in Kurdistan, Iraq; a low-energy housing project in China; a design museum, two contemporary art galleries and a series of residential projects in Mexico; amongst others. Christoph Zeller and Ingrid Moye teach at the AA Visiting Schools Berlin and Mexico, a master class in urban studies at the UIA Mexico City and have been jury members, lecturers and guest critics at various universities.


The £56.5 million Life Sciences building, opened by Sir David Attenborough in October 2014, is the University’s biggest construction project to-date and signifies its commitment to biological sciences research. As part of the project, a new open space was created at the heart of the campus, linking Royal Fort Garden with St Michael’s Hill in Bristol.


Situations are award winning public art producers based in Bristol. Founded in 2002, Situations opens up the potential for artists to make extraordinary ideas happen in unusual and unexpected places, inspiring audiences and participants to explore new horizons. Previous projects have included Theaster Gates, Sanctum (2015), Hew Locke, The Jurors (2015) to commemorate the Magna Carta; Michael Sailstorfer, Folkestone Digs (2014); Annika Kahrs, Concert for the Birds (2014); Katie Paterson, Future Library (2014-2114) and Futurefarmers, Flatbread Society (2013 onwards) both for Oslo; Alex Hartley, Nowhereisland (2012); Heather and Ivan Morison, Black Cloud (2009); One Day Sculpture, New Zealand (2008). Situations is an Arts Council England National Portfolio organisation and is generously supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the John Ellerman Foundation and the University of the West of England, Bristol.


Situations, in association with BBC Four, have developed a public participation project to mark the launch of Hollow called Treebank. The month-long project will create an online repository of images, voices and films from across the world, which like a time capsule of sorts will form a picture of how trees shape our experience of the planet in 2016. These might include descriptions of a particular place and time, a rare and ancient tree or a common, but personally significant tree, each relating to the immensity of tree species in Hollow. These memories might take visitors to points of origin or points of discovery, might reveal world events or daily lives. Treebank is produced in association with the BBC Four. Situations have partnered on the project with Ujima Radio in Bristol, and received generous support from Arts Council England. Creative design agency Extra Strong was commissioned by Situations to build Treebank.


  • Commissioner

    University of Bristol

  • Produced by


  • Partners

    Arts Council England, BBC

  • Supported by

    Robert Richie; Ardkinglas Estate, Argyll, UK; the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, USA; Bedgebury National Pinetum, UK; Col Martin; Department of Wood Science & Engineering Xylarium, Oregon State University, USA; Gary Green; Henk Bakker; Herbario Nacional de México, Mexico; Keele University Arboretum, UK; Laboratory of Wood Anatomy and Xylarium of CNR-IVALSA (National Research Council of Italy - Trees and Timber Institute), Italy; Lionel Daniels; The National Botanic Garden of Wales, UK; The Pennsylvania State University, USA; Research Institute for Sustainable Humanosphere, Kyoto University, Japan; Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, UK; Herbarium, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK; Teruven Wood Xylarium, The Royal Museum for Central Africa, Belgium; University of Bristol, Department of Life Sciences, UK; USDA Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory, USA; Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, UK; Winkworth Arboretum, UK and the Yorkshire Arboretum, UK. With thanks to archivists Rachel Cartwright and Claire Sharpe