22ft piece of ‘living architecture’ on show in Oban

A STRUCTURE made out of growing willow branches designed by the world’s foremost living architecture expert has gone on display in Oban.

The 22ft-tall piece made entirely of live willow will evolve as it grows over the coming months in the grounds of Dunollie House, the headquarters of the Clan MacDougall.

Angus Murray, a learning and event officer at Dunollie, said he hoped that the living architecture might become as famous as McCaig’s Tower, the town’s best known landmark.

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“It is a substantial structure, in keeping with the landscape. The willow offers a natural and environmental alternative to McCaig’s Tower,” he said.

This will be the first example of work by Marcelle Kalberer to be shown in Britain.

It took a week to build and will change with the seasons.

A team from Mr Kalberer’s German headquarters worked with volunteers to build the tower and dome.

McCaig’s Tower was a £5,000 commission by local banker John Stuart McCaig, whereas Mr Kalberer’s structure cost £5,900 and was paid for by Creative Scotland.

Robin MacDougall, of Dunollie, said: “We have yet to name it but it is the first structure designed by Marcelle Kalberer in the UK and it’s the first structure at Dunollie since 1836. When you look at it from some angles it looks like a cathedral.”

Tara Coia, who works at Dunollie and also creates willow sculptures, said she was asked if there were any projects suitable for money earmarked for Argyll by Creative Scotland. Miss Coia said: “We have a history of using willow on the site, so I wrote to Marcelle Kalberer in Germany as he is such a renowned willow artist.

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“He had done willow structures all over Europe and America but this is the first one he has designed in the UK. You get other people who make towers and domes, but nothing on this scale.”

Mr Kalberer’s daughter, Anna Kalberer, 38, a willow artist like her father, headed the team which built the new Oban tower and dome.

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Miss Kalberer said: “I have worked with my father for about 20 years and he has been doing this work for about 27 years. He got inspired by those people from Iran who made houses out of reeds. He was so inspired by natural materials and the fact that the structures keep changing. Because he is an architect and also an engineer he got into the practice of building bigger and bigger projects.”

Auerworld Palace in Germany is the world´s largest living structure made of willow branches, it was designed by Mr Kalberer.

Miss Kalberer said: “After two years willow has got great roots, it is a strong material. Every project we design we try to make new, we don’t do the same thing again. The Oban designs are made of willow from Glasgow, there are over 100 types of willow.”

She added: “We are going on to France next to do work there and then we go to Sweden.”