Studio Morison builds thatched hideaway disguised as a haystack

Studio Morison builds thatched hideaway disguised as a haystackArtists Heather and Ivan Morison have unveiled Mother, a thatched hut offering sanctuary and solitude in a Cambridgeshire nature reserve.

Installed in the Wicken Fen Nature Reserve, Mother is a deceptively large sculpture, designed to look like the haystacks that were once found all over this part of England.

Slender openings reveal that is is actually a shelter, inviting those walking in the wild fenland landscape to stop for a moment of pause and reflection.

Heather and Ivan, who together lead Studio Morison, wanted to explore how the natural world might be used to improve people's mental health.

The pair were inspired by the book Nature Cure, in which author Richard Mabey writes about how walking and observing in the countryside helped him overcome depression.

"The sculpture offers a space to reflect on troubling thoughts, as well as an opportunity to perhaps still the mind for a while by focusing on the simple material qualities of the work, and the changing nature of the landscape that surrounds it," said Ivan Morison.

The shape and proportions of the structure are based on a traditional style of hayrick with a conical top. Here, the sloping top forms a roof with a small oculus at its peak.

The artists built the circular frame for the structure using timber felled from their own forest in north Wales and milled in their workshop.

For the thatching, they enlisted a skilled local craftsman, whose first job as an apprentice was to thatch a hayrick in this same location, decades ago.

Two entrance openings were created by simply leaving two sections of the building frame empty. As a result, they span all the way up from the timber floor to the roof.

Studio Morison typically creates architectural structures as a form of art.

Past projects include Escape Vehicle #9, which imagines a future when nature reclaims the planet, and pink origami-like pavilion called Look! Look! Look!

For this latest project, they chose the name Mother to bring to mind several references. They spell it in capitals followed by ellipsis, MOTHER...

"The ellipsis suggest the omission of a second word to be added by the viewer," said Ivan Morison.

Studio Morison builds thatched hideaway disguised as a haystack

"Mother Earth connects to ideas of the natural world, it's supporting qualities, but also our own responsibilities and personal connections to it. Mother Land connects us to the place we belong, within this landscape, within a community, within a country. These are important and powerful ideas by which we define our identities."

He continued: "Mother Ship makes us think of the sculpture as a vessel that might take us places; this could be on an imaginary journey around the solar system, it could be a journey connecting the past with an imagined future, making the work a time machine of sorts, or it could be a journey within our own minds, a rehabilitative journey from upset to calm."

Studio Morison builds thatched hideaway disguised as a haystack


Studio Morison builds thatched hideaway disguised as a haystack

"Finally, a key reference is the song Mother, from Idles' debut 2017 album Brutalism, a song that expresses an anger and frustration at the modern world, and its impact on our individual and family lives."

Mother was commissioned by Wysing Arts Centre as part of a region-wide arts programme called New Geographies. The aim is to bring contemporary art to unexpected places in the east of England.

A programme of events has been organised to mark the arrival of the thatched hut.

Photography is by Charles Emerson.

Project credits:

Concept: Heather and Ivan Morison
Commissioners: Wysing Arts Centre, New Geographies, National Trust
Engineering: Artura
Fabrication/installation: Studio Morison