Katie Paterson

Future Library: A Century Unfolds, 2014–2114

The film Future Library: A Century Unfolds documents the ongoing process of a project, which even its own creator will never see fully realised: a gift to future generations. It will only be completed in 93 years: a long-term enterprise comparable to the construction of medieval cathedrals.

In 2014, visual artist Katie Paterson planted a forest in Norway. Its trees are intended to provide the paper for a special anthology of books, to be printed in 2114. In each of the intervening hundred years, a writer will contribute a text that is to be held in trust, unread and unpublished, in a specially designed room in the Oslo Public Library, until the date of publication. This ‘Silent Room’ is built with wood from the trees that were felled to make way for the trees planted for this project. The collected manuscripts will be on display there, yet unavailable for reading. Writers to date include Margaret Atwood (2014), David Mitchell (2015), Sjón (2016), Elif Shafak (2017), Han Kang (2018), Karl Ove Knausgård (2019), and Ocean Vuong (2020).

This work is in line with the growing entreaties for long-term thinking. We should hand the planet over to our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren in good condition. For this we need to plan ahead and take the interests of future generations into account in all our thoughts and deeds.


Multidisciplinary artist Katie Paterson (1981, Scotland) lives and works in Glasgow. Collaborating with scientists and researchers across the world, she aims to create projects that consider humanity’s place on Earth in the context of geological time and change. Using sophisticated technology and specialist knowledge she stages intimate, poetic and philosophical engagements between people and the natural environment. Paterson translates complex scientific information into simple objects with a minimalist aesthetic, collapsing the distance between the viewer and remote edges of time and the cosmos. She has broadcast the sounds of a melting glacier live, mapped all the dead stars, compiled a slide archive of darkness from the depths of the Universe, created a light bulb that simulates the experience of moonlight, and sent a recast meteorite back into space.


Katie Paterson

Future Library: A Century Unfolds, 2014–2114.

Certificate photographed by John McKenzie, 2015

Future Library: A Century Unfolds, 2014–2114

Photo by Rio Gandara / Helsingin Sanomat

Atelier Oslo, Lund Hagem and Katie Paterson

Silent Room, Deichmanske bibliotek, Oslo

Photo by Vegard Kleven, 2020

Courtesy Bjørvika Utvikling