PaperBridge – a unique large-scale temporary installation made entirely from bright red paper, traversing a flowing river at the foot of Helvellyn, in the Lake District, was unveiled on Friday 8 May and remained in situ for 10 days as part of ‘Lakes Ignite’, Lakes Culture’s spring arts programme.
PaperBridge had been the dream of Teesdale based artist Steve Messam for over three years, which continued his series of ambitious temporary installations in rural landscapes. As with previous works, PaperBridge was a bold contemporary statement in a conserved environment and bound with layers of narrative about landscape, whilst remaining accessible to all. The artist brought with him over ten years’ experience in delivering large-scale projects in the landscape and an international reputation.
The piece is a temporary artwork made for and about the landscape of the Lake District, based on local stone bridge construction dating back to Roman times – Steve Messam
The bridge was totally free-standing – no glue, screws, bolts, fixings or supports were used to hold the structure together. The bridge was constructed using over 4.2 tonnes of bright red paper, cut into 22,000 sheets, to create a structure 5 metres in length, with a 4 metre span over the river and standing at 2m from water to top of arch. The bridge’s gabions were filled with over 3 tonnes of stone from the gravel beds in the river.
The paper was made in one long piece and measured over 10 miles and was specially made by James Cropper at their Burneside Mill, near Kendal. Cropper’s is the only paper mill in the world capable of producing paper of such vibrancy and colour to the strict environmental standards this piece required.
Paper is a simple material made from wood pulp and water. The intensity of colour used in the bridge contrasted with the verdant landscape making a bold statement of form and design. Alongside this the materials used were intended to have a resonance with the natural environment and the construction of the bridge also reflected local architectural forms, specifically pack horse bridges found throughout the area. All of the paper used in PaperBridge was then recovered and returned to the Burneside Mill for recycling into new paper once the project ends. This transparent cycle was part of the overall environmental narrative of the piece.
PaperBridge was located between two parallel paths in the Grisedale Valley, near Patterdale, from 8 until 18 May, a 2 mile walk from Patterdale, OS grid ref: NY 362 144.
The Lake District has a long and important history in the perception of landscape and aesthetics. PaperBridge is part of this continuing and evolving legacy and I’m so please it forms part of Lakes Culture’s spring programme ‘Lakes Ignite’ – Steve Messam
Enjoy 5 minutes with… Steve Messam here
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