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Steve Messam Builds Bridge From 20,000 Sheets of Paper

May 19th, 2015

Right now anyone visiting the Lake District National Park of Cumbria will be treated to a curious spectacle over one of the many meandering streams throughout the region. It's a simple footbridge made of nothing but stacks of brightly colored paper that stands in stark, complimentary contrast to the surrounding verdant landscape - a red arch that makes a visual impression and draws spectators from miles away. The installation piece is part of the ongoing Lakes Ignite 2015 project, an effort coordinated by Lakes Culture which seeks to promote a place best known for its rural getaways as a destination for the arts.

While one might not think of paper as a viable structural material, especially for a bridge, UK artist and environmentalist Steve Messam turns that perception on its head with this simultaneously modern and rudimentary feat of engineering. No fasteners, nails or adhesive was used in the construction of this bridge. Instead Steve has opted let gravity, pressure and friction do the heavy lifting, not unlike the earliest iterations of the arch as pioneered by Roman architects.

He started by placing two metal cages on each side of the stream and filling them with 4 tons worth of locally sourced stones to anchor the structure. Next a semicircular wooden template was put together to support the initial phases of bridge building. 20,000 sheets of paper later and the bridge was complete and ready to bear some weight. Not only can people and animals cross the bridge, it is also surprisingly resistant to the elements - a useful trait for the characteristically fickle weather. It will stand here until May 18-19th, 2015 when it will be dismantled, returning the stones to their source, and recycling the paper, which was generously donated by famous UK paper company James Cropper.

Steve Messam Paper Bridge

Steve Messam Paper Bridge

Steve Messam Paper Bridge

Steve Messam Paper Bridge

Steve Messam Paper Bridge

Steve Messam Paper Bridge

Steve Messam Paper Bridge

Steve Messam Paper Bridge

Steve Messam Paper Bridge

Steve Messam Paper Bridge
All images courtesy of Steve Messam

This bridge is just one of many installations under Steve's belt. He's made several splashes on the art scene in the form of his public works that often blend art with architecture and nature, adding a sublime element to his environments through the creative use of color, composition and scale. You can check out more of this fascinating work on Steve's portfolio page. You can also catch him on Facebook and Twitter.


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