One of twelve signature projects of the LEEDS2023 Year of Culture, Making a Stand is a multi-dimensional public art installation. Physically, it is an intricate network of 127 vertical timber fins designed to represent a stand of trees, symbolising the Forest of Leodis that once stood in the same location. Metaphorically, it refers to the climate crisis, the use of land and resources and the increasing need for sustainability.
The structure is over seven meters tall. The desired visual attributes and required strength led to Douglas Fir being identified as the most appropriate timber, a large evergreen species that offers hardness and durability and can be supplied in long lengths.
We worked closely with our project partners to select UK-grown trees that, according to their size and age, would meet the specification; a unique and informative experience for those involved. The trees were then felled, cut at the sawmill, and transported to our facilities here at Stage One to be manufactured.
A core principle of this project was the concept of a circular economy; the use of sustainable materials and the ability for them to be re-purposed or re-used. Additionally, there was to be minimal residual impact to the area once the installation had been removed.
Meticulous planning enabled us to optimise the yield from the timber to minimise waste, and any processing or treatment was kept to a minimum so that the timber can be returned to the supply chain. The exposed end of each fin was treated to prevent water absorption from the atmosphere or wet weather conditions, and processing involved only a light sanding to prevent splinters or sharp edges that could have caused harm to visitors.
The structural challenge concerned how to secure the fins in an upright position for the long-term duration. Each fin is individual; its characteristic bark intact on the outer edge, the width tapers due the natural form of the tree, and each is located at an altered angle to create a different view from any approach.
Initial investigation of the site involved a laser scan of the location and a groundworks survey to identify any obstacles or areas of concern. The results highlighted concrete balustrades, a public statue and uneven pavement on the surface, whilst underground there was evidence of spatial voids and pipework where there was once public facilities and a water fountain.
Design, manufacture, and installation required the utmost precision. At its base, each fin is located on a steel plate secured into the ground; at its top there is a complex steel cable system, fitted at height to prevent any intrusion or distraction to a visitor’s line of sight. Considering exposure to an external environment, the steel was galvanised to prevent corrosion and ensure the longevity of the installation.
The value of the time spent in the design and planning stages was unmistakable during manufacture and installation, once the initial fins had been located and secured the remainder of the structure swiftly followed and was complete within 3 weeks.
In advance of the project being demounted, we have designed and manufactured stone pins that will be used to fill any holes resulting from the base plate fixtures. Combined with a colour matched resin to secure them, once complete there will be negligible visual or physical evidence of the structure.
Stage One fulfilled the role of Principal Designer, Principal Contractor and manufacturer on the project and were delighted to win the award for Best Small Project at the IStructE Yorkshire Regional Group Awards 2023 for Making a Stand.