History Trees

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, 2012

“A tree marks time. This artwork will grow year by year, transform as the seasons change, reflecting the evolving nature of the Olympic Park. These trees embrace metal rings which have been engraved with a record of the site’s history, held in the branches for successive decades to come.”
Ackroyd & Harvey 2012, December 2011

A major public art commission consisting of ten semi-mature trees – each supporting a large bespoke metal ring within the canopy – are being planted to mark the ten entrances to the new 500-acre Olympic Park. The commission, entitled History Trees, by renowned British artists Ackroyd & Harvey has been funded by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and Arts Council England and will act as a permanent reminder of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The ten trees will reach full maturity over the next 25-30 years reaching up to 18 metres tall (see overleaf for list of species and locations). Three trees have been planted and will take root in time for the Games and the remaining seven will be planted post Games. Once planted, each tree will have a large ring, engineered from either bronze or stainless steel and weighing up to 500kg, securely suspended within the tree canopy with branches and ring slowly fusing together over time.

The rings will be six metres in diameter and engraved on the interior face with text capturing an archive of history from each location. The tenth tree – a Metasequoia – will hold a bronze ring inscribed with local residents’ recollections of the area. The shadow cast by this ring will be permanently captured by a bronze inlay on the ground, and each year the shadow and ring will momentarily align to commemorate a significant date and time during the London 2012 Games.

Inscriptions on rings:

Location of trees

The three Games-time sites will be:

  • Southern Access Approach: Tilia tomentosa (Silver lime) will be planted at the south of the site close to where the Greenway crosses the Waterworks River. Around 20 per cent of spectators will walk this route on entry to the Olympic Park.
  • Eton Manor Approach: Tilia europaea (Common lime)  will be located between two bridges on the Eton Manor site.
  • Western Access Approach (Greenway): Fraxinus excelsior (Common Ash) has been chosen to take root in the south-western corner of the Park – an area of protected wildlife habitat. During Games-time it will form the western entrance point, primarily for local residents and cyclists.The seven legacy sites will be:
  • Monier Road Approach: Platanus x acerfolia (London plane) will be sited at an approach that will form a key entry route into the Park after the Games from the south-west, particularly for residents of Tower Hamlets.
  • Olympic Village Approach:  Quercus cerris (Turkish oak) will mark the entrance for athletes arriving at the Olympic Park from the Village.
  • Stratford City Approach:  Metasequoia glyptostroboides (Dawn Redwood) will be located to southeast of the Park, forming the main entrance/exit point. It is expected that around 68 per cent of spectators will arrive and depart through this route. This location will also see the physical shadow of the tenth (bronze) ring inlaid into the ground.
  • Waterden Road Approach: London plane tree  has been selected for an area accessed off the Lea Interchange and Temple Mills Cut, along the western edge of the Olympic Park.
  • Carpenters Road Underpass Approach: Fagus sylvatica ‘Atropunicea’ (Copper Beech) will be planted at the south-eastern edge of the site. The area, which lies below the Great Eastern Main Line railway, will form an important entrance into Park in both Games and legacy.
  • Temple Mills Approach: Quercus palustris (Pin Oak) has been chosen for the northeast of the Olympic Village, Temple Mill Lane and a bridge. This will form a main connection over the railway from Leyton into the site.
  • Hackney Wick Approach: Corylus colurna (Turkish Hazel) will be planted at a plot close to which the ODA will be delivering a bridge link over the River Lea into the Park. (This tree is subject to a different planning application because of the location being outside of the Olympic Park).

Management Team

Adriana Marques, London Legacy Development Corporation
Elizabeth Newell Art Consulting

Design Team

Benson-Sedgwick Engineering Ltd
Expedition Engineering
Hillier Nurseries

Funded by Arts Council England

View press release
London Legacy website