Spruce Time

The World’s Oldest Tree to be Hospitalized in Sweden

Spruce Time was selected in 2019 as the winning proposal for a landmark public artwork at the New Hospital Campus in Malmö, Sweden, due to be inaugurated in the spring of 2025. For Spruce Time Goldin+Senneby will clone the world’s oldest tree and plant it in its own “care building” outside the hospital’s main entrance.

The oldest tree in the world is a spruce on Fulufjäll mountain in the central Swedish county of Dalarna. Researchers have been able to date elements of the tree’s root system to at least 9,550 years old. This spruce tree has essentially lived through the entire Holocene––the geological epoch dating back to the most recent ice age.

For the public artwork Spruce Time, Goldin+Senneby are currently cloning this tree. While the cloned tree will be the oldest in the world, this clone will also be a sapling starting its life at the beginning of a new geological epoch, frequently referred to as “human time” ––the Anthropocene. Patients, staff, and visitors who return to the hospital over the course of their lives will be able to follow the ancient tree’s growth and development, as a living memory from another time.

”We chose Goldin+Senneby’s proposal for how it encourages contemplation. People have always felt safe being close to trees. We instinctively relate to a tree’s life cycle and to its protective capacity. Spruce Time functions as a conceptual landmark for the hospital: Rather than being spatially monumental, the artwork monumentalizes time itself. And as such it also poses a challenge to us as commissioners: It’s a living artwork that generation after generation will be able to relate to, for as long as we are able to care for it,” saysNilsmagnus Sköld, head of art commissions at Malmö Hospital Campus.

The tree will have its own “care building”: a computer-controlled greenhouse attached to the hospital’s existing cooling system, where the needs of the tree determine the climate. The greenhouse becomes a customized miniature hospital responsible for the care of this single tree.

”For us, this work is essentially about dependencies: about making the world’s oldest tree dependent on the ecology of the hospital, and making the hospital a part of the tree’s ecology,” say the artists Simon Goldin and Jakob Senneby.

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