If a Tree Falls

Location: Arte Sella, Borgo Valsugana, Italy
Collaborator: Tianjiao Zhang, Justin Kollar, Hoi Lam Si
Status: Completed in Jan. 2019

Arte Sella is situated in between two stone peaks. For more than 30 years, it has been attracting to the mountains of the homonymous valley the most astonishing contemporary artists and architects. Here, creative geniuses have left their mark generating the most important art-nature route in the world.
However, it is known that mountains can be fickle and nature can be both a mother and a cruel stepmother. During the night of the 29th October 2018 an unprecedented storm hit Arte Sella. It damaged hectares of secular woods and left a trail of devastation of mud, uprooted stumps and felled trees.
Today Arte Sella is wounded and severely damaged. Now more than ever, it needs creativity and planning. This project aims at regenerating the largest art park of the contemporary scenario. It will do so by creating a system of ateliers and architectural works in order to make artists and visitors go back to those mountains.

- Conceptual Elements

- Detachment & Attachment
  A museum looped into the valley


If a tree falls in the forest, one can be sure it leaves a mark: a not so subtle reminder that such apparent calamity opens up the ground and sky, framing both in new ways.
Here, the artful interventions in nature lie somewhere between remembering and forgetting. The remnants of nature’s material, recomposed by human hand, is weathered by time. Falling trees and shifting grounds alter remembered travels, changed landmarks, altered vistas. Our will to intervene in the changing course of nature is like trying to recall and hold on to a pleasent memory that time and calamity has reshaped.

The reverberations of these memories make faint and punctuated sounds. A new set of instruments may allow us to hear them: recalling that which still exists, and framing that which does not yet exist.


The museum is like a collection of snapshots, each picture a reimagining of nature. These peices of art, though torn from their original conditions deny plaigarism as they are recontextualized as part of a new memory of place. Elevational changes along the path present new perspectives of the connection between constructed space and nature’s deconstruction as art form.

Views of the immediate surrounding are controlled across the valley. The space between Villa Strobele and the museum path frames a space for new composition. The art of nature is apparent throughout. The exhibition begins within walls but continues through natured paths to Malga Costa.


The relationship between the artist and nature are recomposed as part of the remembering process. The museum stages the confrontation of the trauma of calamity, while the possibility of renewal is found in future work.
Artists and visitors mix as they are confronted with the worksmanship of nature’s material. Engagement between artist and visitor is important element in the composition of art. Memories are never recalled through individual effort, a collective and collaborative process underpins their recomposition. Remembering requires engagement and purpose outside of a singular perspective. A workshop and work spaces frame the path ahead as one of common ownership.


If a tree falls in the forest, how could it not make a sound? Reframing is merely needed to hear the reverberations left by a sudden change. The shifting ground, overturned trees, and moving sky register this noise.
Gabion walls, recomposed earth and packaged as man’s way of preempting change, provide scaffolding for new memories of place. Elements provide framing and juxtoposition of what was there. Spaces that lack old artpieces are still spaces of art even without the ‘piece.’ Using nature’s material—the trees, ground, and shape of the sky, a reframing of this space provides a mode of remembering what had been forgotten by nature’s will. It allows the visitor to ‘listen’ to what still exists.

Moving forward, the visitor is confronted with a moment of repose: a repositioning of oneself within the past and future journey. An overlook provides this future perspective. Contemplation of one’s transgressions and past experiences as a function of the forwardness of the path one’s on. Stasis, even if momentary, is sometimes necessary as recent memories recede. Repose gives remembrance a point of reference.
Residences for artists mimic a longer form of stasis, but secluded and immersed within the forest. Here, repose is made into a productive activity. The artist is immersed in the material ripe for reimagining: an engagement with memory in one’s surroundings to form new compositions.


New memories are cemented through shared experience. Individual experiences are often recounted through the sharing of meal and the space of forum. Restaurant and amphitheater provide space for this recounting with familiar materials and framing devices, but still enclosed within a surrounding wooded area. Muddled views through trees reveal the wider landscape, and thus the wider plane within which to place one’s subjectivity, but only if one looks hard.
The space between remembering and forgetting lies between what once was and what will be. The art that is created here make us aware that they are a product of both individual and collective recollection of what once was as something new. It is to remind us that when trees fall, we are all there to hear it.

- Museum

- Museum

- Cafe & Amphitheatre

- Artist Atelier

- Landscape Strategy

- Competition Board