It’s Hard to Tell You’re in California’s Fourth-Largest City When at Andy Goldsworthy’s Spire

I guess you can see a famous landmark in the background, but otherwise this scene in the Presidio is fairly bucolic. 

“Spire” by Andy Goldsworthy. Click to expand

Enveloping the Presidio with lush greenery, the historic forest is a beloved park feature. It provides habitat for birds and wildlife and also contributes to the Presidio’s designation as a National Historic Landmark District.

The Presidio forest was planted over a relatively short period of time and is more than 100 years old. While the eucalyptus trees continue to thrive, the pines and cypress are declining. Each year, the Presidio Trust replants two to three acres, staggering the effort to create an uneven-aged forest that can be more easily sustained.

Since 2002, the Trust has planted nearly 2,000 trees and is preserving the qualities that define the forest’s character, such as the orderly military alignment of trees. The Trust’s reforestation strategy also takes into account the forest’s importance as wildlife habitat and considers the needs of visitors who walk in its shade or admire the views it frames.

The grove along the Bay Area Ridge Trail near the Arguello Gate (see photo above) is predominantly cypress trees. The Trust has removed 150 dying trees from this area and will replant 1,200 trees along the Bay Area Ridge Trail over the next 10 years.

In 2006, artist Andy Goldsworthy visited the Presidio and was inspired by the history and character of the forest. He saw an opportunity to create a sculpture with the felled mature trees. Constructed in October 2008, The Spire tells the story of the forest, celebrates its history and natural rhythms, and welcomes the next generation of trees. It is a poetic reference to the forest’s past; as new young trees grow up to meet the sculpture, it will eventually disappear into the forest.

Andy Goldsworthy was born in 1956 and spent his childhood in Yorkshire, England. Goldsworthy’s work has been made in the open air, in places as diverse as the Yorkshire Dales, the North Pole, and the Australian Outback. 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.

Goldsworthy draws his inspiration from places and creates art from the materials found close at hand, such as twigs, leaves, stones, snow and ice, reeds, and thorns. The works made from these natural materials interact in different ways with their environments. 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.”

Spire recalls one of Goldsworthy’s 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.”

The Spire is located on the Bay Area Ridge Trail near the Arguello Gate, west of Inspiration Point Overlook and north of the Presidio Golf Course Clubhouse (view Spire map).”

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