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12 May 2011

Taunton's willow cathedral is growing!

Yes, your eyes do not deceive you, that is a massive (in fact 30metres by 16 metres -8 metres high!) willow made structure springing out from the ground in a field situated between a college, a supermarket, a river and a park in the middle of Taunton in Somerset. Further more, for those of you interested, yes, that is me looking at it in the top photo and proudly so, because anyone living in Taunton/Somerset or interested in sustainable buildings/art or fantastic spectacles of human and natural processes working together in harmony should be excited and should find themselves a spot down there to have a look at this for themselves. It really is the first willow cathedral to be built in the UK, the only other cathedral of its kind (I believe) is to be found in Germany. The cathedral is has been designed by local artist, Stephan Jennings who is also building it with fellow artist, Sophie Courtiour. Here's what Stephan has to say about the project:

Stefan comments, “Creating the cathedral is a serious test for us due to the dimensions involved and the nature of the materials used. The opportunity to create this type of structure is something we have both been working towards for a number of years and as far as we are aware nothing of this scale has been made before in the UK.
“It’s locality near the banks of the River Tone in a fresh new public space seems right for Taunton. Longrun Meadow is a really expansive green space close to the town centre, which is proving very popular with local people. I believe that the structure will fit perfectly into the landscape and will offer a connection with nature and the life of the river.”

-taken from Somerset College's Genesis webpage

Those of you with excellent memories may recall me mentioning Stephan before as I first had the pleasure of meeting him on the 'Routes, river, rail' project in which I was the assistant artist on back in 2010. We were talking to Stephan about the routes along the river, specifically in relation to the wildlife that lives there and ways in which people can interact with these environments sustainably. Back then, we hoped that the willow cathedral proposal was going to go ahead and obviously now the reality is that it was both successful and is under construction as we speak. It aims to be finished by the end of May when it will continue to grow eventually turning mush more green than in these photos. However, the purpose and potential opportunities for the cathedral have yet to be decided with some suggestions for public gatherings to performances and celebrations. Personally, I really like the fact that it is so open to debate as to what its function should be because the construction of it being built and that it will continue to grow and become a part of the floodplain landscape in which it lives in are as if not more interesting anyway.

I cannot begin to tell you how exciting it was to come across this structure whilst I was out walking, its impressive in its sheer size but worth a closer look too as you can see all the different colours of willow within it and how the whole building has been woven together, its quite beautiful. It reminds me of the seeing the Eden project just when it opened and was more like a massive man-made hillside or quarry in these two giant domes with very little growing in it to begin with and then a year later and, whoosh! Everything was huge and it no longer looked like a building site; as any person who spends time in a garden will tell you, about how rewarding it is to see something living grow and transform well its the same with this cathedral. I'd recommend seeing it now and then watching it change as it shoots and turns green.

Thank you Sophie Courtiour for permission to use your photos.
If you 'like' what you've read here and want to follow further willow cathedral updates please 'like' the Willow Cathedral page on facebook by clicking below:
We'll keep you updated about when its due to officially open to the public, however anyone can go visit anytime now whilst its being built so please go check it out!

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