In the early spring of 2020, the large blue Atlas cedar tree that had stood in the East Lodge Garden of Downing College for over 170 years had to be taken down. It had succumbed to a disease and had become unsafe. Internationally acclaimed artist Ai Weiwei offered to create a new ’tree’ sculpture from the wood of the felled tree as a gift to Downing College. The artist’s generosity was supported by a donation from the Howard Foundation, which funded the fabrication of the sculpture in honour of Dr Alan Howard. The sculpture by Ai Weiwei, named Cedar 2022, now stands in First Court opposite The Heong Gallery. The Foundation were donors to The Heong Gallery when it was first opened in 2016 so it is very fitting that the tree is now positioned in the courtyard as a permanent artwork for visitors to the college and gallery.
A dedication ceremony was held on 16th May 2023 to unveil a plaque to commemorate both the tree and Dr Alan Howard, recognising his connection with Downing College as alumnus, nutritionist and benefactor. His son and daughter are pictured below.
The tree sculpture was built by Ben King, normally a bespoke furniture maker, according to a design by Ai Weiwei.
See also the Downing College News. Unless noted otherwise, all photographs below were taken by Susan Lintott, Director of The Heong Gallery.