With each passing year, the reality of climate change looms larger—and it’s inspiring more designers to politicize public space. Deforestation is a global crisis, and with rates of tree loss on the rise, threatening the amount of natural oxygen left to combat toxic greenhouse gases, the most obvious response is to plant more trees.
This month, Swiss curator Klaus Littmann is doing just that. His project, For Forest: The Unending Attraction of Nature, has converted the Wörthersee stadium in Klagenfurt, Austria, into a temporary native European forest.
Some 300 trees, many of which are fully grown and some of which weigh nearly 13,227 pounds alone, will occupy the stadium’s existing Astroturf and, together, will be the country’s largest public art installation ever.
This curated forest, developed in collaboration with Enea Landscape Architecture, boasts several species, including silver birch, alder, aspen, white willow, field maple, and common oak. The team sourced these trees from three nurseries—one in Italy, one in Germany, one in Belgium—and it took the team 22 days to “plant” the public art installation once the trees arrived in Austria.
Littmann’s careful arrangement of the trees in The Unending Attraction of Nature is inspired by a drawing of the same name by Austrian artist Max Peintner, which Littmann first saw several decades ago. The drawing, created in 1970, depicts a harrowing future, one where infrastructure imposes upon nature existing in its rightful space. The designer’s hope is that these native central European trees will attract local wildlife, thus breathing new life into a familiar, preexisting space and focusing the public’s attention on the fragility of existing forests.
“With this art intervention I would like to challenge our perception of nature and sharpen our awareness of the future relationship between nature and humankind,” Littmann told Artnet News. “Nature, which we now take for granted, might someday only be found in specially assigned spaces, as is already the case with zoo animals.”
Visitors to this living art pop-up will be able to view the panorama of trees from various angles around the stadium, which seats a whopping 30,000 spectators. Naturally, the experience will also depend on timing; some people will view the trees by daylight, and others will view them by floodlight at night. And the colors of the leaves will shift as summer slips into fall.
The stadium-enclosed forest is open every day, with free admission, through October 27. After its run in Wörthersee, the forest installation will be transferred to another public site nearby, in order to minimize the ecological footprint of transporting the trees. Alongside this replanted “forest sculpture,” a pavilion will be designed to document the project indefinitely.