Hidden between the pines of Yorkshire’s Dalby Forest sits Rachel Whiteread’s first permanent sculpture in the United Kingdom. Celebrating the centenaries of both the Forestry Commission’s creation and World War I’s end, the artist has fabricated a Nissen hut of cast concrete that will gradually camouflage into its setting as the elements weather its façade.
Accordingly, the sculpture was co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW — the UK’s arts program for the WWI centenary — and the Forestry Commission, which is now the country’s largest land manager with more than 900,000 hectares of land.
“It was really about trying to make something that was much more about a journey,” Whiteread says in the below promotional video for her sculpture. “It’s about stimulating questions, about connecting people with forestry and our heritage.”
Following WWI, woodland coverage in the country was at an all-time low. The Forestry Commission was established to create a strategic reserve of timber. During the government’s reforestation efforts, Dalby actually contained a large Nissen hut complex where unemployed workers were trained to plant the woodlands that stand today.
Those huts, designed by engineer and inventor Peter Norman Nissen toward the end of WWI, were created from a large sheet of corrugated steel bent into a half-cylinder; they were used extensively throughout World War II to house soldiers and supplies.
“The Nissen Hut is part of my Shy Sculptures series,” Whiteread told The Art Newspaper. “These works are in places that cannot be found easily; finding them is a journey.”
The Turner Prize-winning artist was initially slated to build her hut near Low Dalby village, but the sculpture was criticized by some local residents who thought it would attract litter and graffiti. A villager wrote to the North York Moors National Park Authority, a planning body, likening the sculpture to an “inner city bus shelter.” The sculpture was later relocated to the woods, a change which Whiteread readily welcomed.
Outside of the country, Whiteread has installed a variety of permanent sculptures, including her “Cabin” (2016) on New York’s Governors Island and her Holocaust memorial (2000) in Vienna’s Judenplatz.