With a beautiful setting, world-famous seafood and streets packed with individual shops and cafés, Oban has always been a great place to visit. But a new attraction has just made it even better. The town is now home to a stunning structure made from living willow designed by the world’s leading ‘living architecture’ expert, Germany-based Marcel Kalberer. This is the first example of his work to be shown in Britain and is set to become a major local draw.
Led by a team from Marcel’s group, Sanfte Strukturern, local artists and craftspeople spent a week in March building the Willow Hall in the gardens of Dunollie Museum, Castle and Grounds. They created the 22ft tower and dome using willow cut from a woodland in Glasgow. Over the summer, the branches took root and grew shoots and leaves to fantastic effect. The structure will continue to evolve and change with the seasons. In two years’ time, the dome will be completely covered with new willow branches.
You couldn’t get a more glorious setting. Dunollie Castle stands over Oban Bay with views across to Kerrera, North Lorn and the islands beyond. The Willow Hall itself sits in the old kitchen garden of Dunollie House, circled by woodland and ancient trees. Marcel’s team certainly found the surroundings inspiring, as Marcel’s daughter, Anna Kalberer, a willow artist like her father and part of the team that travelled from Germany, says: ‘A soon as we saw the location we knew it would be perfect. We were surprised and delighted by the beauty of the landscape.’
The Willow Hall came about thanks to an Argyll-wide talent development initiative, supported by Creative Scotland and led by The Walking Theatre Company. This initiative aims to develop professional practitioners based in Argyll through collaboration with internationally renowned artists, musicians and actors. Pip Weaser, a local basketry artist who worked on the project, says: ‘I’d been aware of Marcel’s living architecture for a long time and wondered how he could build such huge structures. It was a joy to have the opportunity to find out by working under his team’s expert guidance alongside willow enthusiasts and other Argyll artists of various disciplines. It was real honour to work on such a prestigious structure.’
After you’ve seen the Willow Hall and admired the craftsmanship, take time to explore Dunollie Castle and the historic grounds and woodland trail. You can learn about the fascinating history of the castle, the MacDougall family and life on the west coast of Scotland through exhibitions and displays. There’s a lovely café serving up delicious home-made soups, sandwiches and cakes. Dunollie is also home of the Hope MacDougall Collection. With over 5,000 objects gathered by the late Hope MacDougall, a family member, largely from around the local area, the collection forms a diverse, quirky and fascinating record of the region’s social history.
Article provided by Eve MacFarlane, Freelance writer and lover of Scotland’s wild places.