On 9 May 2016, the University of Bristol will unveil a new public artwork by artist Katie Paterson, in collaboration with architects Zeller & Moye. Entitled Hollow, the artwork will be permanently sited in the historic Royal Fort Gardens in Bristol.

The artwork is commissioned to mark the opening of the University’s new Life Sciences building in the vicinity of the gardens and is produced by Situations. The result of three years’ research and sourcing, the collection of tree species (one of the largest amassed in the UK to date) has been built through the generosity of arboretums, xylaria, herbaria and collectors world-wide.


Katie Paterson. Photo: Giorgia Polizz

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 4847 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.”


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.


Photo: Tom Beldam

Photo: Tom Beldam


Professor Guy Orpen, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol and Chair of its Public Arts Committee, said:

“We’re very excited to see Hollow in situ at Royal Fort Gardens and have no doubt that it will be a magnificent piece of public art for people across Bristol and beyond to explore and enjoy. It’s quite amazing to think that trees of all ages, from so many different families and from all corners of the earth, will be represented.

It’s certainly a captivating way to celebrate the important work taking place in our world-leading Life Sciences building, where our researchers are studying many of the acute challenges which face humanity this century – such as food security, biodiversity loss and climate change. Hollow allows us to connect in new and previously unimagined ways with the beauty, complexity and depth of the natural world.”


The creation of Katie Paterson’s Hollow has been filmed for BBC Four’s What Do Artists Do All Day? series which will be broadcast in May alongside Forest, Field and Sky, a major new documentary about land art presented by James Fox.

Get Involved

Contribute your own stories to TREEBANK, a digital forest that will accompany Katie Paterson’s permanently sited artwork. Find out more.

Associated Events

Free Lecture:

Join artist Katie Paterson and architects Zeller & Moye for George Hare Leonard Memorial lecture at the University of Bristol, to hear how Hollow was created. This event is free and open to the public. Book your ticket here.

Other Exhibitions of Katie Paterson’s work

The unveiling of Hollow also coincides with the exhibition of a new work by Katie Paterson as part of the 70th Anniversary Commissions for the Arts Council Collection. Paterson’s new commission Totality, on display at Somerset House in London, and concurrently at The Lowry, Manchester, will be a mirror ball comprising images of nearly every solar eclipse that’s been documented by humankind; through drawings and since photography began.

The work is part of Utopia 2016: A Year of Imagination and Possibility and will be on display from 27 April – 22 May 2016. Syzygy, Paterson’s largest solo show in the UK to date, runs at The Lowry from 29 April – 17 July 2016.


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