A sustainable timber ‘forest’ springs up in Leeds City Centre

Making A Stand - an artificial forest of timber fins arranged vertically stands tall and proud in Leeds City Centre.

Commuters and visitors arriving into Leeds city centre have been greeted by an extraordinary sight. A sculptural ‘forest’ has taken root in the main public square outside Leeds railway station.

Comprising 127 seven-metre-tall timber fins, the installation is entitled ‘Making A Stand’. It uses commercially grown timber “borrowed” from the construction supply chain – the timber will be repurposed when the work is dismantled at the end of the year.

This artistic intervention in a popular pedestrian area is inspired by the city’s origins – as a forested area called ‘Leodis’ over a thousand years ago.

 Showing the public that timber is a sustainable building material

It was co-created by acclaimed visual artist Michael Pinsky and award-winning environmental architects Studio Bark. Both are known for creating work that challenges the status quo on climate change and urban design.

They’re calling attention to the urgent need for the built environment to replace carbon-intensive materials like concrete and steel with more sustainable alternatives. The project demonstrates that large, temporary art can be sustainable.

Responsibly sourced Douglas fir from the UK provided the material for this timber-promoting public art; image © Tom Joy

Responsibly sourced Douglas fir from the UK provided the material for this timber-promoting public art; image © Tom Joy

“For the last century or more, wood has been overlooked as a building material, despite medieval structures dating back hundreds of years,” states artist Michael Pinsky.

“We’re drawing attention to timber’s potential as a low carbon construction material – and encouraging conversations surrounding material life cycles.”

The installation’s structure

The timber fins were removed from the supply chain between felling and stacking, and are positioned vertically – like the trees they come from.

The fins work together with a webbed canopy of steel wire ropes and struts, acting in tension and compression to ensure minimal damage to the wood so that it can be repurposed at the end of the installation.

Made in Britain

The timber is from sustainable UK forests and was sliced into fins by Whitney Sawmills in Herefordshire. The final stages of fabrication took place at Stage One, a specialist fabricator and TDUK member based near York.

“The Douglas Fir used in the construction was chosen from sustainable forests within the UK,” reveals Wilf Meynell, Director at Studio Bark.

Visitors to the square, appreciating timber’s material qualities up close; image © Ellen Christina Hancock.

“This addresses the issue of the UK’s heavy reliance on imported timber for construction. Our objective in sourcing UK wood in the UK is to ‘lock up’ as much embodied carbon as possible.”

“Each Douglas Fir fin can even be traced back to the precise stump in the forest using a unique code, which will enable us to track the journey of its lifecycle for many years to come.”

‘Making A Stand’ will remain installed at Leeds City Square until the end of 2023.