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Group of visitors in front of tall Spire art

Artist Andy Goldsworthy Makes Art from Aging Presidio Trees


Presidio of San Francisco (September 18, 2008) – Renowned British artist Andy Goldsworthy is bringing his vision to the Presidio in a new work that showcases efforts to save the Presidio’s aging forest. The artist’s team has begun work in the Presidio in a cypress grove along the Bay Area Ridge Trail above Arguello Boulevard. The new work is entitled “Spire.”

“The Spire” will be made from 30 to 40 cypress trees that the Presidio Trust forestry crew has saved following its reforestation effort in the area. The sculpture will be about 15 feet in diameter, tapering to 90 feet at its peak. The Trust has removed about 150 dying trees from the grove and over the next decade, will replant 1,200 trees in the area. The new trees will grow up around the sculpture, which will eventually disappear into the forest. “The sculpture will be a poetic reference to the forest’s past and will welcome the next generation of trees,” said Presidio forester Peter Ehrlich. “In 20 years, the new trees will be about as tall as the sculpture.”

Goldsworthy is known to many through the 2001 film, Rivers and Tides. He draws his inspiration from places and creates art from materials found close at hand, such as twigs, leaves, stones, snow, and ice, and his works interact with their environment.

“Spire” recalls one of his earliest sculptures: “Memories,” also spires of mature trees, created in 1984 in the Grizedale Forest in the Lake District of North West England. “I have not found another great location for this type of work until now,” said Goldsworthy. Today, the sculptures are among the more than 60 works of art in the Grizedale forest.

The Presidio Forest was planted by the United State Army at the end of the 19th century in an effort to beautify the post and to set it off from the city that was growing around it. “The forest is made up of Eucalyptus, pines, and cypress trees. The trees were planted over a short period of time. While the Eucalyptus trees are thriving, the pines and cypress, which typically live for about a century, are dying. We will replant these trees in one- and two-acre groves over the coming decades,” said Ehrlich. “By staggering the reforestation over as long a period as possible, we will create an uneven-aged forest, one that will be healthier and more sustainable.”

The Presidio Forest is a dramatic example of how people have shaped the landscape of the historic military post. In 2006, Goldsworthy visited the Presidio and was inspired by the history and character of the forest. The Presidio’s man-made forest is an evocative backdrop for the artist who strives “to make connections between what we call nature and what we call man-made.”

Work on the sculpture will continue through the end of October, at which time the public will be invited to take a walk along the Bay Area Ridge Trail and discover “Spire.”

Andy Goldsworthy was born in 1956 and spent his childhood in Yorkshire, England. He has made most of his art in the open air in places as diverse as the Yorkshire Dales, the North Pole, and the Australian Outback. He is known to many Americans through the film Rivers and Tides, which was released in 2001. His works in the Bay Area include “Stone River” at Stanford University, made from the rubble left after the Loma Prieta earthquake; and “Drawn Stone” at the De Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, which also recalls San Francisco’s earthquakes and their effects.

The Presidio of San Francisco is a national park and a National Historic Landmark District. Four hundred and sixty nine historic buildings and diverse historic landscapes, such as the forest and the parade grounds, contribute to its landmark status. The Presidio is overseen by the Presidio Trust, established by Congress in 1996.

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