PaperBridge unveiled at Lakes Culture’s Lakes Ignite in the Lake District

PaperBridge – a unique large-scale temporary installation made entirely from bright red paper, traversing a flowing river at the foot of Helvellyn, in the Lake District, was unveiled on Friday (08th May) as part of ‘Lakes Ignite’, a spring arts programme organised by Lakes Culture.

Lakes Culture is a cultural arts project funded by the Arts Council and VisitEngland, designed to establish the Lake District, Cumbria, as the UK’s must visit rural culture destination.

PaperBridge has been the dream of Teesdale based artist Steve Messam for over three years, which continues his series of ambitious temporary installations in rural landscapes. As with previous works, PaperBridge is a bold contemporary statement in a conserved environment and bound with layers of narrative about landscape, whilst remaining accessible to all. The artist brings with him over ten years’ experience in delivering large-scale projects in the landscape and an international reputation.




The bridge is totally free-standing – no glue, screws, bolts, fixings or supports have been used to hold the structure together. The bridge has been constructed using over 4.2 tonnes of bright red paper, cut into 22,000 sheets, to create a structure 5 metres in length, with a 4 metre span over the river and standing at 2m from water to top of arch. The bridge’s gabions are filled with over 3 tonnes of stone from the gravel beds in the river.

The paper was made in one long piece and measured over 10 miles and was been specially made by James Cropper at their Burneside Mill, near Kendal. Cropper’s is the only paper mill in the world capable of producing paper of such vibrancy and colour to the strict environmental standards this piece required.




Paper is a simple material made from wood pulp and water. The intensity of colour used in the bridge contrasts with the verdant landscape making a bold statement of form and design. Alongside this the materials used have a resonance with the natural environment and the construction of the bridge also reflects local architectural forms, specifically pack horse bridges found throughout the area. All of the paper used in PaperBridge will be recovered and returned to the Burneside Mill for recycling into new paper once the project ends. This transparent cycle is part of the overall environmental narrative of the piece.

PaperBridge can be found between two parallel paths in the Grisedale Valley, near Patterdale, until 18th May. The bridge is a 2 mile walk from Patterdale, OS grid ref: NY 362 144.


PaperBridge artist Steve Messam credit Greg Stephenson

PaperBridge artist Steve Messam credit Greg Stephenson


Steve Messam, creator of PaperBridge, said: ‘’The Lake District has a long and important history in the perception of landscape and aesthetics. Paperbridge is part of this continuing and evolving legacy and I’m so please it forms part of Lakes Culture’s spring programme ‘Lakes Ignite’. The piece is a temporary artwork made for and about the landscape of the Lake District, based on local stone bridge construction dating back to Roman times. On an aesthetic level the piece acts as a focal point within a vast open landscape. The bright red colour drawing the eye and interfering with the natural environment, while at the same time creating compositional balance with the green backdrop and flow of water.’’


PaperBridge Helvellyn backdrop credit Greg Stephenson

PaperBridge Helvellyn backdrop credit Greg Stephenson


There are a wealth of culture happenings and events waiting to be discovered across the county, Lakes Culture’s spring programme ‘Lakes Ignite’, is designed to showcase some of these highlights and the wealth and variety of what’s on offer. For details about what else is on as part of ‘Lakes Ignite’ visit: