The Perseverance of Decay - CODAworx

The Perseverance of Decay

Submitted by Robert Horner

Client: Oregon State University- Peavy Hall

Location: Corvallis, OR, United States

Completion date: 2020

Artwork budget: $197,000

Project Team


Robert Horner

Pi R Squared

Collaborator wood bending

Steve Chapin

Point Hudson Boat Shop

Structural Engineer

Peter Opsahl

Lund Opsahl


Miro Lund

Miro Lund Construction

Steel Fabrication

Pegasus Northwest

Pegasus Northwest

Collaborator wood bending

Jerry Austin

Jerry Austin


Bly Windstorm

Earthdwell ltd.


John Kresge

John Kresge


Rick Brenden

Rick Brenden


A tree-like structure created from heat, pressure & fire, that is inspired by the cycle of life and decay. The structure, filters light and the surrounding contextually fabric to provide a place of contemplation and reflection. Reaching 22’ in the height, the structural ribs are tied at the base to a concrete footing by steel plates. The ribs are bound at the peak by a steel top plate. The wooden structural ribs are made from (TMT)Thermally-modified timber that have been laminated into a curve. The inside edge of each wooden rib is torched. The torching evokes the feeling of being within a burnt-out tree, and also speaks to the devastation of forest fires. The charred wood makes a direct connection to the fragility and impermanence of life, and prompts contemplation on the manner in which humans manage the environment. The spacing of the wooden ribs echoes the vertical aspect of tree trunks and mirrors the feeling of being within a forest. The subtle irregularity of the spacing reflects the random patterns found within the forest, and serves as an opposition to the manner in which forests are planted for timber generation. The charred wooden interior provides a slight reflective surface that shimmers in direct light.


Fundamentally, the project goals were to integrate the artwork into the arboretum, provide a place of contemplation and reflection, as well as to speak to the nature of Peavy Hall, the Forest Sciences Complex located on the Oregon State University campus. Preserving the existing site trees and existing landscape was critical, thus the installation process needed to be precise and thoughtful. The project intention was to reflect the specific context of the site within the campus, and to also speak to the larger context of wood technology, manufacturing and harvesting. Specifically, the project draws a direct connect to forest fires, and the cycle of life and decay.


The collaborative process of the project started with meeting the architectural team designing Peavy Hall, and learning about the project goals and intentions. The Perseverance of Decay was an isolated commissioned artwork within a large series of artworks scattered around the building and surrounding grounds. The Perseverance of Decay was intended to provide a reflective & contemplative place within the site arboretum, and to serve as a memorial for the late Dean of the College. As the Artist selected to design and install the artwork, I worked directly with the Oregon Arts Commission and the University during site analysis and installation. I assembled a team with extensive knowledge and skills in woodworking and construction, and designed the project with easy-of-installation and minimal site impact in mind. My primary subcontractor was Steve Chapin or Port Townsend, WA. Together Steve Chapin and I researched, explored and developed techniques to bend and laminate the thermally modified wood into the desired curves that were computer generated. I assembled an installation crew to install the project on site during the fall of 2020.

Additional Information

Along with the University and the Oregon Arts Commission, there was a local group that represented the Indigenous peoples of the region. This group played an important role in selecting the artist and providing a larger cultural context to the site. The artwork utilized existing timber technologies and implemented them in versatile and innovative methods. The project nestles into the site extremely well, and heavily connects to the sense of place. The project was ironically constructed during one the worst forest fires in Oregon history, and was done so by the dedication of the project installation crew.