‘Tree of Wisdom’ sculpture demolished

By on October 31, 2011.

Daily Universe staff

A BYU spokeswoman says the iconic “Tree of Wisdom” will be replaced in the spring. The announcement comes after BYU workers, using large construction equipment, tore down the two-ton sculpture Saturday morning.

Carri Jenkins, spokeswoman for BYU, told The Daily Universe that “through years of wear and tear  [the sculpture] had become structurally unsound.” The sculpture came down in bits and pieces with the help of a jack-hammer attached to a backhoe while the teeth of another backhoe tore at the aging structure. Workers also used a saw to cut rebar which had reinforced the sculpture’s concrete panels.

Jenkins confirmed the plan at this point is to place a replica of the sculpture at the same location in the spring.

[easyembed field="Photogallery"]According to the BYU website, the concrete sculpture was completed on July 15, 1975, by Paulsen Construction Co. The sculpture consists of 10 evenly spaced vertical, curving panels which are five inches thick and 14 feet tall. Student body officers presented the arrangement of panels to BYU as a Centennial gift on Sept. 18, 1975. The Tree of Wisdom was created by part-time BYU faculty member Frank Nackos, with Arnold Wilson doing the structural engineering, and was originally erected just north of the Harold B. Lee Library.

On July 29, 1996, the $21,766 sculpture was uprooted and moved to its new location south of the SWKT in preparation for the expansion for the Harold B. Lee Library. The “Windows of Heaven,” a 30-foot-tall stained glass structure, was presented on the same day as the Tree of Wisdom sculpture. The two art pieces were a result of an invitation given to 40 LDS artists in 1974 to express the centennial theme: “Love of God, Pursuit of Truth, Service to Mankind.”  The Windows of Heaven was designed and constructed by Francis Riggs and erected at the south end of the quad between the W.W. Clyde Engineering Building and the Widtsoe Building.

In an Aug. 28, 1975 article in The Daily Universe, Nackos said the tree symbolizes both the planting of spiritual roots and the blossoming toward godliness. “I feel that it will be controversial,” he said. “It probably always will be.”