Temporary Bridge, Temporary Art

This artist certainly knew how to build a bridge and get over it! Artist Steve Messam, an environmental artist, built a bridge made out of 22,000 pieces of paper. It doesn’t contain a single screw, bolt, or piece of glue, but it can completely withstand the weight of people walking across it.

The bridge is located in the north of England over a creek. The bright red paper stands out in the surrounding lush green environment, but Messam likes to think of the bridge as something that is still natural in the environment because paper is only made of wood pulp and water after all. The art bridge is meant to be temporary, so once it starts to fall, the paper will be taken away and properly recycled.


The bridge stands due to compression from the paper. Messam placed down stacks of 1,000 pieces of paper at a time as the compression built up, finally hammering the last piece into place. Though nature has taken its tolls on the bridge, it hasn’t fallen, even when the paper gets wet; rather, the bridge becomes stronger when the paper fibers are wet because the fibers want to swell, and it has no room to do so. In the weeks that it has been open, it has only sunk 30 millimeters.

Messam has done a great job of creating art pieces that are installations into the environment; they do not disturb the flow of nature around them, but rather work in tandem with it. Messam commented about his thoughts of outdoor environmental art: “the work is as much about its surroundings as the object itself. Its more of a total experience than seeing a sculpture in a gallery.”


--Jessalyn Kieta

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